Tuesday, December 30, 2014

VISTAs raise awareness about hunger, homelessness

Hunger and homelessness are two issues in the U.S. that don't often get enough attention. The National Hunger and HomelessnessAwareness Week brings these issues to the forefront of public discourse. Traditionally the week before Thanksgiving, this year’s awareness week took place November 15th -23rd.

At NC Campus Compact many of the VISTAs support projects seeking to improve food security, access to fresh foods, and nutrition education. Even those not directly involved in working with food insecurity can see its devastating effects in the neighborhoods they serve. Over 1 in 10 North Carolinians experience food insecurity and these rates are even higher for children. 1 in 4 children live in poverty in North Carolina. VISTAs at NC Campus Compact help break the cycle of poverty and the Hunger and Homelessness Week gave them an opportunity to organize events with member campuses and local communities.

Student volunteers at WFU prepared
Thanksgiving meals for Turkeypalooza.
Natasha in her turkey hat.
At Wake Forest University, VISTA member Natasha Vos organized the annual Turkeypalooza event. During the week students at Wake Forest prepared, cooked, and delivered 420 Thanksgiving meals to residents in need. This year, the meal included cooking 44 herb rubbed turkeys, autumn vegetable stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin cookies. As “head turkey,” Natasha guided student volunteers through the entire process. This Winston-Salem Journal piece includes photos and videos of the effort.

UNCG VISTA Kali Hackett led a week of HHAW events.
VISTA member Kali Hackett led students at UNC Greensboro in a variety of events to promote Hunger and Homelessness awareness. Kali moderated a panel of homelessness advocates in a discussion about perceptions and stereotypes of homelessness. Read more about the panel in this piece from UNCG's the Carolinian.

In addition to the panel, UNC Greensboro screened a documentary, held a food drive, and students volunteered at the Interactive Resource Center, a day center for the homeless. Over the course of the week, the HHAW programming engaged 86 individuals, including 16 volunteers who performed 48 hours of service in the Greensboro community.

In Cullowhee VISTA member Willie Jones led events at Western Carolina University, culminating in Food Talk where students had the opportunity to challenge the idea of what food is and gain new perspectives. One way the Food Talk challenged perspectives was by giving students had the opportunity eat crickets. One participant said "I've never eaten a cricket before, but it was good. I just don't want to see the actual body." 

Willie also led a drive to collect food and toiletries, a Hunger Games Dodgeball event to teach students about social injustice, and a Hunger Banquet. Over 90 students participated in the events at WCU.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness was a success and the VISTAs at NC Campus Compact continue to grow and build communities.