Food Security and Catholic Higher Education

What is your campus doing to address food security and hunger?  Please contact ACCU to share your story.

ACCU works to build collaborative networks across Catholic higher education in order to strive for the eradication of poverty. This objective incorporates a part of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), which harmonizes global issues with the every person's right to life. Hunger and food insecurity are two major challenges to the dignity of the human person and to our right to live and thrive. Catholic Social Teaching (CST) holds that "our commitment to the value of each human life should be reflected in both individual choices and in the policies and structures of society." [1]   

 A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply    to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling    from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every  human being.
      — Pope Francis, Address to the Food and Agricultural Organization, June 20, 2013

Hunger and Food Security Defined
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), food security is defined as a circumstance when ‘people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.’[2]
  • According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is ‘a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food'. It also defines hunger 'as a physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.'[3]
  • In 2013, according to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), there were nearly 842 million suffering worldwide from hunger; 98% of whom were from developing countries. CRS also notes that hunger kills 5 million children every year.[4]
  • Feeding America, the US’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, stated in 2013 that 15% of Americans are food insecure - 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 4% in Slope County, North Dakota to a high of 33% in Holmes County, Mississippi. [5]

Catholic Social Teaching

 ‘Feed the hungry’ (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church as she  responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the      sharing of goods. Moreover, the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become  a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet.
                                         — Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (2009), paragraph 27

In a publication entitled A Catholic Campaign Against Global PovertyCRS and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) identified six headings for the connections between Food Security and Catholic Social Teaching: 
  1. Protecting human life and dignity - including "the right to food and nutrition to sustain life and to enable to person to develop in dignity."    
  2. The call to family, community and participation - "hunger impacts families everywhere by interfering with children’s ability to learn and develop and often forcing persons to sacrifice essentials, such as access to health care or children’s education, in order to provide sufficient food for their families." 
  3. Option for and with the poor and vulnerable - "the primary goal for food and agricultural policies should be access to food for all people and reducing poverty among the most vulnerable everywhere."
  4. Dignity of work and the rights and duties of workers - "The economy, including the agricultural economy, must serve people, not the other way around… Workers should have access to an adequate income that can provide for their families’ basic needs, including the need for food and nutrition." 
  5. Solidarity - "The world is not just a market; it is the home of our one human family… Solidarity leads us to support the development of organizations and institutions at the local, national and international levels that serve the needs of all… In the case of food and agriculture, solidarity and subsidiarity lead us to support policies that protect smaller, family-run farms, which not only produce food, but also provide livelihoods for families and a foundation for rural communities."
  6. Respect for creation - "All creation is a gift. All of us are called to a special reverence and respect for God’s creation. Nurturing and tilling the soil, harnessing the vitality of water to grow food, and caring for animals and their habitats are forms of this stewardship."

ACCU Member Colleges Combat Food Insecurity

Campus Kitchens Project

Six ACCU Members, Gonzaga University, Marquette University, Merrimack College, Saint Louis University, Saint Peter’s University, and Walsh University participate in the Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization that utilizes kitchens on campus to accept, store, repackage, and deliver food to populations who experience food insecurity. Each individual Campus Kitchen is run primarily by students, not only helping to educate them about social injustices related to hunger, but also creates volunteer and leadership opportunities. For more information, please visit the Campus Kitchens website.

The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University

The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University have a partnership with Common Ground, a 21-year-old CSA garden that strives to make local, fresh produce accessible to people in the community. Common Ground’s responsibilities include producing for their subscribers, selling at a local Farmer's Market, selling to a local food co-op, and selling to a local foods restaurant. In addition to donating produce, the garden also does educational events for the community on food justice and how to eat healthily on a budget. For more information, visit their website.

University of Notre Dame

Pre-College Programs at the University of Notre Dame coordinate two academic summer programs for high school students. In 2014, the program focused on food insecurity issues. They introduced the subject by screening the film A Place at the Table and were joined by the film's co-director, Kristi Jacobson. Following the film, there was a panel discussion with representatives from United Way/People Gotta Eat, St. Joseph County Bridges Out of Poverty, and UND’s Center for Social Concerns. The following Saturday there was a community food drive benefiting local food pantries through United Way/People Gotta Eat. Most evenings, students had opportunities to volunteer at a community garden, a soup kitchen/shelter, and a women's shelter. Theology course students also made breakfast for the guests at the South Bend Catholic Worker, and all of the Summer Scholars students had the opportunity to participate in a $2 meal challenge.

Loyola University Chicago

Originating as a student project in the STEP: Food Systems course, the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens at Loyola University Chicago grow more than 15 varieties of vegetables and herbs which are donated to a local charity. The project provides interactive, real-world educational tools for students, faculty, staff and community members. There are multiple demonstration sites on campus. Interns manage the Gardens and gain knowledge of food production in a Midwestern urban environment. The project showcases transferable, low-tech innovative food production applications in the urban environment.  The Gardens project is one of several food security and sustainability awareness efforts at the university.

University of Saint Francis

The University of Saint Francis hosts an annual food drive competition with four other area colleges and universities called U Can Crush Hunger. Students collected food for the Community Harvest Regional Food Bank in Fort Wayne, highlighted food insufficiency in northeast Indiana through activities and events, and focused on collecting protein-rich foods. Starting in 2008, University of Saint Francis has donated over 230,000 food items or money equivalents to the food bank as a result. 

Resources on Hunger and Food Security

One Human Family, Food For All Campaign: This project, launched by the Catholic humanitarian aid network Caritas, raises awareness about hunger crises. This campaign advocates to guarantee a right to food for all, responds to Pope Francis’ call to end systemic hunger by 2025. Visit the website for several resources including prayers, reflections, media materials, and information relating to hunger, food security and the campaign.

Catholics Confront Global Poverty: This organization provides information and specific talking points for advocates of food security and an end to hunger. CCGP has regular “Action Alerts” which allow users to easily contact their congressmen by phone or email and advocate for concrete measures to ending systemic hunger. Visit the CCGP Hunger and Nutrition Issue page here.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):  USCCB has produced a number of other articles related to CST and hunger.


[1] Catholic Relief Services and US Conference of Catholic Bishops, ‘A Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty: Catholic Social Teaching and Food’ ( (28 May 2013).

[2] World Health Organization, ‘Food Security’ ( (28 May 2013).

[3] US Department of Agriculture, ‘Definitions of food security’ ( (28 May 2013).

[4] Catholic Relief Services, ‘One Human Family, Food for All’ ( (28 May 2013).

[5] Feeding America, ‘Hunger & Poverty Statistics’ ( (Accessed  21 October 2014).


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