By John Hanley
“It is rather surprising how few people realize how poverty-stricken our state is.”
With Thanksgiving around the corner, we are all thinking of the things we’re thankful for – family, friends, food, a break from school. However, as important as the ‘Thanks’ in Thanksgiving is, the ‘giving’ holds a lot of weight as well.
Hoping to recognize the value of the latter, student organization Kitchens On The Geaux, along with other Campus Life and Baton Rouge organizations, hosted its second annual National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week last week.
NHHAW is a nationwide event sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. The event aims to bring the issues of homelessness and hunger to the public eye, and Kitchens On The Geaux joined in the Week to promote their goals of reducing food waste, feeding the hungry, and aiding the homeless.
The Week was comprised of several different events, including forking the Parade Grounds, various collections of food and toiletries, volunteer work, a Hunger Banquet, and a roundtable discussion.
“The purpose of NHHAW is to raise awareness for these two social problems and to motivate people to take action towards reducing them,” said Sarah Corie, Programs Director of Kitchens On The Geaux and one of the organizers of the Awareness Week. “It is rather surprising how few people realize how poverty-stricken our state is.”
Corie says Kitchens On The Geaux was created when several LSU students realized the severity of this issue and wanted to do something to fix it. NHHAW was a perfect way for them to reach out to the campus and the community to spread awareness about an issue that isn’t always in plain sight.
“It is very easy to not think about something you can’t see,” Corie added. “But hunger and homelessness are very much a part of the Louisiana community.”
With last week’s events, Kitchens On The Geaux made sure these issues were visible.
Filling the Parade Grounds with 5,000 forks, students and volunteers created a physical representation of just how many adults in Louisiana are without housing each night.
“I feel like it’s important that students realize that even though we can go home and have hot chocolate and be warm doesn’t mean that everyone else can,” said Austyn Adams, a kinesiology major who helped to fork the Grounds, “Everyone thinks homelessness is only a problem in other places, but we need to realize that it’s a problem here, too.”
The Oxfam Hunger Banquet also gave students an idea of the scope and variety of hunger issues around the world by showing the disparity in food access between people of different incomes and countries. Students were given random tickets, not knowing whether they would receive a full plate of food or barely anything at all.
“The place you sit, the meal you eat, are determined by the luck of the draw—just as in real life some of us are born into relative prosperity and others into poverty,” read the event’s description.
The awareness of this reality – that there are millions in need of food and shelter – is what the organizers of the Week were aiming for. The hope, however, is that this knowledge will extend past the NHHAW.
“We hope that through [students’] participation in these events, it will spur a greater commitment to serving the community to provide long-term solutions,” said Josh Dean, Assistant Director of Service at Campus Life. “Continually working to educate yourself about the issues is crucial to working to find solutions.”
So, as you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this holiday season, remember those that might not be so fortunate and consider volunteering as the season of giving approaches.