Food Scarcity Information Dissemination Complex, Vital

By Emma Likens

On any given day, consumers are exposed to thousands of media messages. These messages are filtered by importance, according to needs, desires and interests. According to UNL Assistant Professor of Life Sciences Communication Karen Cannon, the challenge in disseminating information about food scarcity issues is getting past consumers' mental filters and onto their "radar screens."

Cannon said food scarcity issues are important on both local and global levels, particularly in the community in which an individual lives. If not enough food is available, individuals cannot be properly nourished. Cannon said this is especially problematic for school-age children. She said if students come to school with a lack of food and nutrition, "those students aren't able to learn as well and they don't get the full benefit of being the member of a community that will educate them and help them learn and grow." Cannon believes children need to have access to food and nutrition so they grow up to become contributing members of the community.

From a global perspective, Cannon believes food scarcity issues are not well-understood by the majority of people in the United States, and is complicated because the issues can look very different from country to country. Because of that, Cannon said it's important when disseminating information about food scarcity issues to remember that perspectives differ from one country to the next.

Learning to reach target audiences

Karen Cannon, Mark Balschweid, Steve Waller

Teaching students how to disseminate information to different audiences is Cannon's main purpose. Audience identification is vital, because different audiences have diverse interests and preferences. Cannon said messages have to be "sticky," or attention-grabbing for the targeted audience. Messages must cater to the audience's wants and needs and break through mental filters with information about food scarcity issues.

After the message has been created, it must be in the proper media avenue to reach the targeted audience. While digital media and social media are huge players in today's media, she said different generations have different preferences, and it's important not to forget those who prefer more traditional media. Different audiences use social media differently, and should be considered when disseminating information.

Globally, Cannon said evidence of the role of digital and social media lies in the Arab Spring, a movement of people in the Middle Eastern and North African countries who were unhappy with their governments. The demonstrations and riots were shared worldwide through digital and social media.

Cannon said once the messages about food scarcity issues reach the audience, they need to be clear in expressing why the issue is important and how audience members can participate in the issue- sometimes called the "call to action." Cannon said when communicating using social and digital media, issuing a call to action tells an audience how they can participate.

Barriers to reaching the audience

Another challenge in creating effective messages is overcoming language, cultural and political barriers. Cannon said that language barriers include not only the language, but also different dialects. For example, everyday language in the southern part of the U.S. varies from everyday language on the country's west coast. Cannon said when creating messages, people with experience with that dialect need to be involved, so that the message meets the needs and registers with the target audience. Cannon said "It's just too bad that the issue of food scarcity comes up against politics... ultimately, it's not a political issue, it's an issue that is about people getting food, and having enough food to sustain their lives."


The Morrill Act of 1862


A Message From:

Harvey Perlman

Ronnie Green

Steven Waller

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