Above is a screen shot of HungerU’s interactive quiz which can be found at hungeruchallenge.com.
By Rocio Hernandez
Last month, University of Nevada, Reno junior Mariana DuBose found herself feeling overwhelmed by life. She was waiting to move into a studio apartment, experiencing changes at work and found herself without a car. All these things were stacking up and made it harder for her to budget enough money for food.
“I ate out more often during all the transitions,” DuBose said. “It can get very expensive to eat out every day.”
HungerU, an initiative of the Farm Journal Foundation, visited UNR last week as part of its tour of college campuses to help bring attention to global food issues. They stationed their interactive mobile exhibit covered by world maps, TV monitors and interactive games on Gateway Plaza.
According to HungerU crew member Bo/David Williford, hunger is an issue that affects all demographics around the world. The organization’s goal is to bring students up to speed on the ongoing hunger crisis and motivate them to do their part to end world hunger.
“Our hope is that when the trailer leaves, the conversation doesn’t,” Williford said. “[We hope] that the conversation keeps going and results in change.”
As a part of HungerU’s two-day stop at UNR, the university hosted a panel of local experts to talk about hunger on global, national and local levels.
UNR President Marc Johnson was one of the experts at the event. As a former agricultural economist, he addressed hunger from a financial standpoint.
“There are many other factors that control the distribution of this wonderful bounty,” Johnson said at the panel. “The biggest factor is the distribution of income. People have to be able to afford food in order to distribute it well.”
Christopher Partridge, a coordinator for Student Engagement Programs and Services, discussed hunger on campus during the event. He is currently in charge of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada Food Pantry, a food supply that Partridge said has been a safety net for UNR students for roughly 20 years. The Food Pantry is able to supply undergraduate and graduate students with non-perishable items and, in some cases, gift cards from grocery stores if they are struggling to balance their expenses inside and outside of college. Partridge said that in recent years, the number of students that come in and ask for food assistance has increased.
“We never want any student to skip meals in order to pursue their education or we never want them to have choose between book or groceries or anything like that because ultimately if you are skipping meals, it’s not helping you graduate, which is the ultimate goal,” Partridge said.
Last month, DuBose was referred to the Food Pantry by her social work professor. She said was able to reach Partridge and ask for assistance. The items she was given to her allowed her to eat homemade meals and save money.
“It just helped so much to get on track,” DuBose said. “I felt like I’ve been able to focus on school and it kind of took that anxiety away, trying to figure out how I was going to do everything on my own.
However, Partridge said there are still many students that need the Food Pantry but don’t use it because they aren’t aware of it or because they feel ashamed to ask for help.
“There are students who come in and say ‘I really hesitated to even come in and ask for help because that’s not who I am,’” Partridge said. “I think that is a wide perception of this issue.”
Jocelyn Lantrip, marketing and communications director for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, noted that she has seen a problem with society’s perception of the hungry. During her time at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada she has heard their supporters ask if the food is getting to the right people that truly need the help.
“In our society, we spend a lot of time deciding who deserves food,” Lantrip said. “We know that food is necessary; we know that you need it to live. So the fact that some people might not deserve it is very foreign to me.”
UNR senior Joe Abittan came to listen to the panel because he felt he didn’t know about the issues. He left the event with more information on world hunger and ways he can help to solve the problem.
“I think the biggest thing [I can do] is just to donate food when I have the ability to, not just during holidays but year round,” Abittan said. “As an individual, the event also talked about the importance of not wasting food and being conscious about what food I am purchasing, making sure that I am able to use that and not let food to go to waste.”
Williford encourages students to do whatever they can to end hunger. Even if they don’t go into careers such as agriculture that focus on food, he said little things like starting a conversation about it is enough to bring awareness.
“Hunger is not something that people want to talk about, but it’s something that we’ve got to start doing, because that is what is going to [make it] conscious effort and something that we think about every day, and that’s what will make change,” Williford said.
Rocio Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.