World Food Day virtual panel discussion focuses on food insecurity

Radford University students and faculty members joined virtually with community members on October 15 to observe World Food Day 2020 with a panel discussion centered on local food production and provision during a global health pandemic.

Each year, the University’s Department of Economics hosts a panel discussion to coincide with the numerous World Food Day events held throughout the United States and various countries. The international event is organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to create awareness and increase support for individuals who suffer from food insecurity and hunger. “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.” was this year’s theme.

The University’s observance typically is held in Kyle Hall, but this year’s panel discussion was conducted online due to health and safety concerns involving the COVID-19 global pandemic.

World Food Day at Radford featured presentations focused on food insecurity and its impact on various populations, was moderated over Zoom by Jennifer Elias, assistant professor of economics.

Elias and students in her Economics 105 and 230 courses, as well as a University 100 class she teaches, developed the list of panelists who could discuss “how our community is finding ways to deal with the challenges associated with the current pandemic,” Elias said. 

“We wanted to hear how local food producers, preparers, and providers were working to combat food insecurity in our area directly — maintaining food bank operations, finding ways to put food on supermarket shelves – and indirectly, such as continuing production despite broken supply chains.”

Davis College of Business and Economics Dean Joy Bhadury, Ph.D., opened the panel discussion, saying the topic was “dear to my heart because it is a local, regional, state, national and global problem,” Bhadury said statistics reveal that 12.5% of Southwest Virginians and about 9.9% of Virginians live with food insecurity.

Following the deans’ opening comments, a number of speakers, including Zachary Collier, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, spoke to the audience about his research into risk management of the resilience of the food supply chain.

“COVID-19 has put the food supply chain in the forefront of people’s minds,” Collier said as he addressed concerns relating to risk and resilience, including traditional approaches to supply chain risk management.

As panelists relayed stories and spoke on their various fields, viewers, many of whom were Radford University students, asked questions through the virtual chat forum.

Additional speakers included community members, such as J.D. Jones, store manager of the Radford Food Lion; Brian Lawson, a local restaurant owner and entrepreneur; Guille Yearwood, owner of Ellett Valley Beef Company; and Dora Butler, program manager at Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread.

World Food Day was established in 1979 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and was first observed in 1981. Events are held each year on October 16. However, Radford University’s observance was a day earlier this year to accommodate participants’ schedules.

Prahlad Kasturi, Ph.D., who retired as a professor of economics and Department of Economics chair at the end of the Spring 2020 semester, began organizing the annual campus event in 1991. Kasturi joined the virtual panel discussion from California and said, “this is a great day to look at food insecurity and what we can do every day to help.”

Observance of World Food Day aligns with Radford University’s mission to foster relationships and a culture of service within and beyond the University community.

Dec 2, 2020
Chad Osborne