HHAW engages students with issues in their own backyard

Samantha Marinelli

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week kicks off this Saturday with several events planned to help garner awareness about the growing population of people that are either or both hungry and homeless.

The event unofficially began on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 with Volunteer Information Sessions in Bartley Hall. Starting Nov. 15 and 16, the event will start with off-campus food drives at area grocery stores between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

 The area grocery stores to participate include Superfresh, Trader Joe’s, 2nd Storey and the Sparket. 

“Our agenda this year reflects a revitalized commitment to reaching campus in new ways,” said Patrick Smith, co-chair of the HHAW planning committee. 

HHAW was founded on the University’s campus in 1975. Since its start almost forty years ago, the week-long campaign has spread to over 500 campuses nationwide. 

“Sadly, parallel with the expansion of this movement, domestic hunger has seen an alarming increase,” Smith said. “In one of the most prosperous nations on earth, a surplus of agricultural production has not led to equity in distribution or quality of food.”

Smith also indicated that 2014 reports from the USDA state that food insecurity affects more than one-in-sevenAmerican households. 

Despite this, Congress made major cuts to funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in November 2013, reducing the average “food stamp” allotment to less that $1.40 per person, per meal. 

“In affluent communities, many Americans remain unaware of these cuts,” Smith said. Many of those who are aware of the issue assume that charitable giving can meet these needs; yet in a country where one-in-seven are hungry in spite of the best efforts of 40,000 food banks, soup kitchens and pantries, it is clear that charity alone cannot ensure equitable access to healthy food.”

In addition to off-campus food drives, the HHAW committee has planned a Hunger Run on Nov. 18 at the Oreo in conjunction with Back On My Feet. There will be a Spirituality Event later that evening in St. Rita’s Hall.  A Fair Trade Fair  will be held on Nov. 19 all day in Connelly Center, followed by a Food Fast day on Nov. 20, a panel entitled “NCH Faces of Homelessness” on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. in CEER 001, a Solidarity Sleepout event at the Oreo that same evening and a keynote address from Kevin Ryan of Covenant House to close the week on Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. in Driscoll Auditorium. 

“As I have become more aware of these problems, I have developed a personal vision of changing the way the campus engages with hunger and homelessness,” Smith said. “The first congressional district in Philadelphia, the second hungriest district in the nation, is less than 10 miles from the University’s campus; yet most students do not feel directly affected by the issues.” 

Smith explained that as a part of the HHAW committee’s vision, they home to provide the community with three things: information that describes the scope and severity of the problems, a reason why they should care and a list of resources they can use to learn and do more. 

How can students help? Students and members of the community are welcomed to participate in the Hunger Run 5K to benefit Back on My Feet. Also, community members are encouraged to be one of 500 Villanovans at the Solidarity Sleepout. 

“In a world in which enough grain is produced to feed every citizen on earth 2700 calories/day, I refuse to accept that hunger is an inevitable phenomenon,” Smith said. “Within America, which ostensibly grants all citizens rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ I feel strongly that all individuals should be able to afford a secure home.”

Planning for the event’s 40th anniversary next year, the committee is looking forward to discussing a number of significant changes upon returning from Winter Break. 

“I hope to see the University community recognize that these preventable issues exist within our own backyard,” Smith said. “Father Ray Jackson started [HHAW] because he believed in the immense power of education to inspire change. Four decades later, University students, faculty and staff have a remarkable opportunity to display our commitment to creating change through education, service and advocacy.”