Keenum part of effort to assess world food needs

Joining former U.S. cabinet officers, international agency representatives and other policy makers, Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum is part of an effort to assess strategies to deal with world food needs.

The university's chief executive was among invited panelists at a recent Washington, D.C., symposium convened by the Global Agricultural Development Initiative, a part of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Keenum is serving a three-year appointment on the council's advisory group.

"We are addressing the progress of U.S. leadership on issues related to global food security," Keenum said, observing that the group is on record in support of Congressional funding "to help those most in need around the world, especially innocent children."

He was the sole U.S. university representative at the event chaired by former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman.

During his presentation to approximately 300 participants, Keenum outlined the unique contributions land-grant institutions make to research, outreach and product development that target both domestic and international hunger issues.

The former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said he long has been active in international affairs and agricultural development, especially with the Cochran Fellowship Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That effort provides training for Fellows from around the world, and MSU has hosted a number of the groups.

"I see a great opportunity for our faculty, staff and students to be involved in an effort that has global implications and global benefits," Keenum said.

A former USDA undersecretary, Keenum recently launched the International Institute at MSU to coordinate and focus university involvement in academic, research and outreach opportunities around the world.

"More than a billion people on our planet are hungry," Keenum said. "There are tremendous needs that institutions like Mississippi State can help address with technical assistance and research designed to help people help themselves."

Under his leadership, Mississippi State has established formal ties with the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization to collaborate on issues related to food safety and nutrition, and he said he is seeking additional opportunities through non-government agencies and foundations.

"We realize this is a tough budget environment," he said of the recent Washington meeting. "But we can't fail in our efforts to help those most in need around the world."

Other panelists at the Washington conference included Connie Veillette, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, Center for Global Development; Joachim von Braun, director of the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany; and Julie Howard, deputy coordinator for development, Feed the Future Initiative.

Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates was keynote speaker.

Maridith Geuder | University Relations

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