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President's Corner: January 2016

Few historical figures have given themselves more thoroughly to serving the public good than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This month, ODU honors his legacy with an important discussion and service-related events focused on food security.

Public service is an important facet of the wide-ranging educational experience at Old Dominion. During the last school year, our students performed more than 500,000 hours of community service, demonstrating their commitment to the University's mission to serve the needs of our neighbors near and far.

I believe Dr. King would be proud of that.

But I also believe Dr. King would tell us, if he were here today, that we must do more. And food security would surely be among the priorities at the top of his list.

According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14 percent of households - or 17.4 million - were characterized as "food insecure," meaning they had trouble during the previous year providing adequate food for all of their members due to limited resources. Of all households, 5.6 percent - or 6.9 million - had "very low food security." That means food intake was reduced and eating habits disrupted in those households due to a lack of resources. And 9.4 percent of U.S. households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.

These figures might startle those of us accustomed to more comfortable lifestyles. But make no mistake: In a metropolitan area like Hampton Roads, many community members struggle with this issue daily. It is our duty to help.

On Jan. 17, Old Dominion will hold its 32nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance with "America's Sunday Supper/Hunger Banquet," a dinner and conversation featuring Antipas L. Harris, associate professor of practical ministry and director of the Youth and Urban Renewal Center at Regent University. The dinner kicks off a campus-wide effort to raise awareness of food insecurity on campus and in our communities.

The following day, Jan. 18, the annual ODU MLK Day of Service will provide opportunities for the University community to participate in service projects connected to food insecurity in Hampton Roads.

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