Browsed by
Tag: Social Responsibility

Discern Experience Achieve Event: Dr. Craig Gundersen-Food Insecurity in the US

Discern Experience Achieve Event: Dr. Craig Gundersen-Food Insecurity in the US

Although it’s not hard for most of us to imagine the implications of poverty in general, the complex issue of food insecurity has its own set of disturbing consequences that must be addressed. That’s according to Dr. Craig Gundersen, who spoke on October 12 to a group of students at the University of Dallas in a presentation entitled “Addressing Food Insecurity in the United States: A Catholic Economist’s Perspective.” Dr. Gundersen is the Soybean Industry Endowed Professor in Agriculture Strategy in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois and the Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory.

Dr. Craig Gundersen
Dr. Craig Gundersen

Aside from the fact that he believes Catholics are called to feed the hungry, Gundersen said that there are several reasons for studying food insecurity in the United States. “There are definite negative health benefits associated with food insecurity,” he said. “These represent serious consequences.”

Gundersen added that food insecurity is not completely characterized by income. “Since 10-15% of non-poor households are food insecure, we need to study why this issue transcends income boundaries,” he said. Gundersen argued that because the central goal of the USDA is to alleviate food insecurity, economists must study in detail the causes and outcomes of the problem in order to make sure the USDA is a good steward of its $100 billion budget.

Researchers like Gundersen use a survey called the Core Food Security Module to measure an individual’s level of food insecurity. It consists of eighteen questions such as “I worried whether I would run out of food before I had money to buy more” and “My child was unable to eat for an entire day because I did not have enough money for food.” Affirmative responses to three or more questions on the module result in a determination that a person is food insecure.

Gundersen indicated that although he trusts the survey’s integrity, there could possibly be times when a parent might be particularly concerned with admitting his or her children were hungry. “I’ve heard about parents breaking down while taking the survey because they were devastated that they couldn’t feed their kids,” he said. “And some might even be afraid that Child Protective Services might be called.”

Even in good economic times, there is food insecurity in the U.S. According to Gundersen, economic downturns like the Great Recession greatly increase these levels. In fact, a sharp increase in food insecurity levels from 2007-2008 predated the official start of the recession. “Food insecurity levels did not begin decreasing from their highs until 2014,” Gundersen said. “And they have still not returned to their pre-recession levels.”

Gundersen said that statistical models have shown that there are several determinants of food insecurity when other factors are accounted for. One determinant that is having a non-working teenager in the house. “Teenagers working outside of school can be a double-edged sword,” Gundersen said. “While their incomes may help the family pay expenses, their schoolwork may suffer in the process.” Other determinants that make food insecurity more likely include living in households where there is a single parent or where a parent is incarcerated, and even the season. “Summer is predictably a time of food insecurity because children are not receiving free or reduced price breaksfasts or lunches,” he said.

Gundersen explained that although SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, is a large investment on the part of our country, the program is achieving its stated goal of alleviating food insecurity. “Not all federal programs are successful,” he said. “But this one is.”

For more information about the University of Dallas Office of Personal Career Development, click here.

UD Students and Alumni Discuss Social Entrepreneurship and Responsibility

UD Students and Alumni Discuss Social Entrepreneurship and Responsibility

Although many business leaders focus solely on the bottom line, those who understand and embrace the social implications of starting and growing an ethical company often have the greatest impact on their communities while still creating jobs and realizing profits. A group of local entrepreneurs with ties to the University of Dallas participated in an Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility panel event on October 6 to discuss these issues. The event was co-sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Society and Market Share Marketing Club and moderated by Dr. Laura Munoz.

Rachel Sullivan, President UD Entrepreneurship Society   Photo by Anthony Garnier
Rachel Sullivan, President UD Entrepreneurship Society
Photo by Anthony Garnier

In making the connection between business and social responsibility, Michael Hasson (Politics ‘08), a digital campaign strategist and executive at Red Metrics LLC, said that entrepreneurs have responsibilities to various constituent groups. “First, you owe your funders integrity and responsibility,” he said. “You also owe your customers your focus, you owe your employees your loyalty, and you owe society the value of creating jobs.”

Simone Meskelis, a student in UD’s Doctor of Business Administration program and Regional Sales Analyst at Essilor, shared a personal story from her native Brazil about the important role entrepreneurs play in the community. “My father traveled the country trying to find a city where he could start a business,” she said. “And our entire family lived and breathed that business. But in 1995 when the Brazilian economy collapsed and he lost his job, his biggest concern was having to let 50 people go. Those 50 families depended on my father’s business.”

(L to R) Michael Hasson, Simone Meskelis, Kyle Callahan Photo by Anthony Garnier
(L to R) Michael Hasson, Simone Meskelis, Kyle Callahan
Photo by Anthony Garnier

Kyle Callahan (Economics ‘10), Client Success Executive for Care Continuity, pointed out the challenging relationship between social responsibility and business profitability. “In our business, 30% of our clients are complex cases because they don’t have health insurance,” he said. “And our caseworkers sometimes spend a disproportionate amount of time coordinating their care. But they still need our help.”

Beyond the mechanics of business itself, the panelists also discussed how companies can publicly demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility. “Spending all day with your employees doing something like building a house–think about the lessons that can teach,” Hassan said. “And it can make a real difference in the company as well. You want employees to grow and you hope that they eventually outgrow you.”

Photo by Anthony Garnier
Photo by Anthony Garnier

Meskelis explained that increasing employee engagement can result in a win-win for both the company and the employee. “When employees receive meaning from what they do, it helps them connect their work to making the world a better place,” she said. “Work becomes more than just a paycheck.”

Callahan added that simply treating everyone well and with respect also makes employees feel connected to the company. “Understanding things like family emergencies is important,” he said.

The panel also discussed how a company might market or promote their commitment to social responsibility. “Unfortunately, hacks take what sounds best at the moment,” said Hassan. “But obligations to society have been around forever. Trying to just look social responsible doesn’t work.”

Meskelis agreed. “Social media is every liar’s worst nightmare,” she said. “If you’re not going to do the right thing in your core business, it will come out sooner or later. It doesn’t matter what foundation you serve or which cause you support.”

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.