Friday, December 4, 2015

VISTAs Raise Awareness About Hunger and Homelessness

Food and shelter are two of the basic necessities every person needs to build a stable life. But unfortunately for millions of Americans, these two basic needs are not met. Bringing focus to these issues is the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW). Traditionally held the week before Thanksgiving, HHAW gives communities the opportunity to reflect and take action on these issues.

At NC Campus Compact, our VISTA members utilize HHAW to educate their campus communities and provide students with opportunities to engage in their communities.

VISTA Annah Wells at Western Carolina University hosted a week of events in Cullowhee. The opening event, "Weigh the Waste," challenged students to think about food waste by measuring and visualizing over 225 of food thrown away at the dining hall during lunch. Annah also led three groups of students volunteer at the  Community Table and where volunteers unloaded trucks from larger food pantries with donations and served a hot meal to neighbors in need.  At the Hunger Banquet, students learned the realities of global poverty and world food distribution.  The week wrapped up with a Hunger Games Dodgeball event where students competed against other "tributes" in a fun game while learning about social injustice and unequal access to resources. Throughout the week students also participated in a "Live Below the Line Challenge" to see if students can live off of $1.25 a day for a week, the same budget the average American receiving food stamps has to spend on food.

UNCG students volunteer at BackPack Beginnings for HHAW.
At the University of North Carolina- Greensboro VISTA Allison Plitman planned seven events, one for every day of HHAW. The variety of programming offered students the opportunity to volunteer with servGSO at BackPack Beginnings and the Pathway Center, a film screening and panelist discussion, an Empty Bowls event, a Stop Hunger Now packing event, and Soup for Hoops. At Soup for Hoops, a canned food drive, UNCG student groups donated hundreds of cans of food at the men's Basketbath. All of the donations went to UNCG's on-campus food pantry, the Spartan Open Pantry.

“College is a great time to get engaged with the community,” said Allison. “It’s so fulfilling to make a difference, especially a tangible difference like packaging food or serving a meal.”

25 Meredith students participated in the HHAW bingo event.
At Meredith College second-year member Meghan Engstran held an event called "A Night of Chance: Bingo Under the Stars." The event caught the attention of the student population by offering what appeared to be an ordinary night of Bingo. But this game of bingo had a twist- winning a round of bingo does not grantee a satisfying prize. Each aspect of the event simulated situations a person dealing with homelessness or hunger might go through. Meghan states "The purpose of tweaking the bingo cards was to show that not everyone starts with the same and advantages in life."