An alliance of American colleges and universities along with the U.N. World Food Program kicked off a new campaign Monday, choosing World Food Day to announce a new partnership to tackle world hunger.
The program is called Universities Fighting Hunger. The idea is to bring a sense of urgency to the problem of chronic hunger by mobilizing thousands of college students across the United States.
Students from Georgetown University in Washington are selling food and other items on campus to help publicize the new initiative.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, about 852 million people around the world do not have enough to eat - a number that represents more people than the populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union combined.
An estimated 24,000 people - mostly children - die everyday from hunger and related causes.
Helping announce the new hunger initiative was U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Alabama, who spoke to an audience of students, faculty and hunger experts at Georgetown University. The congressman appealed to students to get involved and stay that way. He sought to inspire them by using an analogy from the title of Charles Dicken's famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities.
"I hope that what you do with what you have is that you enter a tale of two cities," he said. "Today - sadly - it is a tale of two worlds. One very rich. One very poor. We are talking about two worlds. And we are talking about what our world will do to help our sisters and brothers in that other world."
Congressman Bachus also reminded students that solving the problem can be as easy as spending what hunger experts say it takes to feed a hungry child - just 19 cents a day.
James Morris, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the audience that feeding the hungry is simply a very important moral cause. And he called on students to begin a grassroots movement against chronic hunger.
"My hope, my prayer, my dream, my wish is that the world will build a movement, not unlike the movement that has addressed civil rights in this country or the environment," he said. "And the world needs to say today, 2006, it is reprehensible, sinful, shameful, unacceptable for 400 million children in the world to starve, to be hungry, to be malnourished."
Also rallying students at Georgetown to join the fight was fashion model Lauren Bush, a niece of President Bush. At age 22, Ms. Bush is also a student ambassador of the U.N. World Food Program. She said students are curious and energetic, making them ideal contributors in the effort to end world hunger. And Bush gave the example of a new handbag she designed and is selling to show exactly how students can help.
"We all need to encourage students to use their individual talents to fight hunger," she said. "For example, I have always been interested in fashion and design. As a result, I have started the feedbag project, which will raise money and awareness for WFP's school feeding program. Each bag will feed one child for one year."
The leader of the alliance is Auburn University, based in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. Nell Fortner is head basketball coach at the University. She is also an Olympic gold medalist, having coached her team to victory in the 2000 games. Along with the other speakers, she challenged the Washington audience to spread the message about chronic hunger.
"Somebody is going to come up with the solution to our world food problem. Somebody is," she said. "Why not somebody right here in this room? Or, why not somebody in this room that affects somebody else that comes up with the solution. You have got to believe it. Go for it."
The new coalition of more than 50 American colleges and universities and experts from the World Food Program hope that by getting their message out they will be able to raise enough money to declare victory in the war against hunger around the world.