As children growing up we learn to fight hunger from our parents and schools. The schools would announce a hunger drive, typically around the holidays and parents would give their children a couple of cans of corn to bring to school and for most of us, that was the extent of our contribution to the fight against hunger.
We need to do more. The fight against hunger should not stop within the walls of our schools. It begins with each person, one can at a time, and with the help of communities around the nation, we can achieve the fight against hunger.
Approximately 16.2% of children in the U.S. live in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty in the United States: 2000, Current Population Reports, September 2001). The U.S. child poverty rate is higher than that of most other industrialized nations.
In 2000, slightly more than half of all food stamp recipients were children. About 68% of these children were school age. Most of the food stamp households with children were headed by single adults, with half of these households receiving cash assistance in addition to food stamp benefits.
(United State Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Characteristics of Food Stamp Households: Fiscal Year 2000, October 2001).
The target demographic area of this report is the state of Connecticut. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Percent of Persons in Poverty in the state of Connecticut in 2000, 2001, and 2002 is as follows: 2000 – 2001 (2-year average) 7.5% 2001 – 2002 (2-year average) 7.8% 2000 – 2002 (3-year average) 7.8% Arkansas was listed as the highest at 18%, the lowest in New Hampshire at 5.
Democratic Process The Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) is a special interest group that ConnPIRG is actively involved in issues “from global warming to endangered species, from the escalating cost and declining quality of health care to the plight of the hungry and homeless.” (ConnPIRG) This group believes that college students are ideal citizens to become involved in these issues because they have the time, energy, creativity, and intelligence that will serve to make a difference in each of the causes they are involved with. Becoming actively involved at the college level sets the stage for continued involvement in societal issues and working toward solutions later in life.
The Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness is a ConnPIRG initiative and part of the overall initiative to encourage college students to become involved in the societal issues that affect the world we live in. The Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness urges students to initiate food drives on college campuses and to encourage the participation of their fellow students as well. Those involved in this effort believe the United States, as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, can end hunger worldwide. The Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness believes that this issue should be a higher priority and an organized effort should be put into place to accomplish this objective. The Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness states that “Experts estimate that if we fully funded federal assistance programs, we could end domestic hunger in five years.” (ConnPIRG) Those involved with this group intend to be a part of the solution to hunger and homelessness by organizing and carrying out “Hunger Clean-Out Serve-a-Thon” programs throughout the country.
The Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness is encouraging students to become involved in this worldwide issue through “education, service, and action to solve the problems of hunger and homelessness.” (ConnPIRG) Students that have become involved in this initiative participate in a variety of events including volunteering in homeless shelters and working to raise money as well as other events such as “Hunger Clean-Up”, a serve-a-thon. Students arrange for sponsors that will donate money for each hour they spend volunteering. This approach serves to both provide the manpower needed as well as raise funds to support the initiative.
Mission and Education Members “Connecticut Food Bank (CFB) is a nonprofit organization that distributes food to other emergency feeding programs. CFB works with a network of affiliated food banks throughout the state serving more than 550 agencies in six counties (New Haven, Middlesex, New London, Fairfield, Windham, and Litchfield). Our main warehouse is located in East Haven, branch warehouses in Waterbury and Fairfield, and subsidiary distribution sites in Stamford and New London.” (Web Article 1) There are various programs set up throughout Connecticut that contribute to the hunger cause. Such contributions are soup kitchens, shelters, day programs, and residential programs which are all non-profit organizations. These programs will indeed help in the eradication of hunger in the Connecticut area.
Public “CFB relies heavily on volunteers to help in our mission of alleviating hunger in Connecticut. From sorting donated food and helping with office mailings, to organizing food drives and working at special events, CFB volunteers contribute their time and talent throughout the year. We strive to make every aspect of volunteering enjoyable, so please consider joining us at any of our three locations: East Haven, Fairfield, and Waterbury.” (Web Article 2) Connecticut has many volunteer programs as well. Some of these programs are Thanksgiving dinners, walks to raise money for hunger, food drives, as well as concerts that have special guest stars to attract more people. They have set up a contact list to make the public aware of such events so that they can participate.
Government “End Hunger Connecticut! is a coalition of organizations dedicated to eliminating hunger in the state through legislative and administrative advocacy and public education. Founding members include Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare of Greater Hartford, and membership is open to all who are interested in working to find a solution to hunger.
End Hunger Connecticut! works collaboratively with its members, low-income people, private organizations, government agencies, and concerned individuals to address issues such as limited access to nutritious and affordable food, limited information about nutrition assistance programs, lack of public awareness of the issues, and other factors that contribute to social and economic injustice within Connecticut’s food system.” (Web Article 3) Many Government agencies contribute to abolishing hunger in Connecticut. Some of these agencies are TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), SSNAP (State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and Produce for the People. These agencies work in conjunction with local and state governments to work toward feeding the hungry and educating the less fortunate.
Giving Back to the Community One of the best features of a volunteer food drive is that the costs of labor and supplies are completely donated by the various individuals who participate. Therefore, the cost to the general public is zero while the cost to the volunteers is immeasurable.
The food itself is donated by the members of the local community. They voluntarily donate nonperishable items for those individuals who are not able to buy all of the food. Since this drive is being held during the December holiday season, a request was made for toys. Again, the local community responded admirably and voluntarily to this cause by providing toys for those children who have one parent in prison. Again, the expense to the general public is zero. However, the return to the community is immeasurable because the food and toy drive brings the community together.
The outcome of the food and toy drive has been a positive one. Individuals volunteer their time, food, and toys. Further, adult volunteers found this exercise to be rather meaningful to their children. A child helping other children helps to build interpersonal relationship skills, and team skills, and ultimately makes a fortunate child realize how lucky he/she is.