Cal U raises hunger and homelessness awareness through series of events

Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning organize events throughout the week that focus on bringing awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding homelessness and food insecurity in our community


Kelly Tunney

Mike Bordonaro, a sophomore athletic training major from New Kensington, works a table with other students sealing bags that had been packed with rice, soy beans, vegetables, and vitamin packets. The meal-preparation event was held Wednesday, November 14 in the Natali Performance Center, where several dozen students packed 10,000 meals into boxes to be distributed globally.

Lindsey Rush, Contributor

On Monday, November 12, the Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning sponsored a poverty simulation by Just Harvest. The goal of a poverty simulation is to sensitize participants to the harsh realities many people face and motivate participants to become more active in the fight to end poverty. With 89 students in attendance, and a number of staff and faculty volunteers, the event was a successful night of learning and bringing awareness to the problem of poverty in, not just our county, but the world. The simulation lasts one hour, representing one month. Throughout that hour participants encounter real-life scenarios someone in poverty may have to deal with such as lack of child care, loss of employment, robbery, and homelessness.

   To wrap up the simulation, Just Harvest lead a reflective discussion with participants. Common problems people encountered during the simulation included a lack of knowledge regarding the resources available to them and not knowing and advocating for their rights. Participants discovered after the simulation that, had they asked for help, some businesses were willing to give out free transportation passes. It was also discovered that majority of the evictions were unlawful due to the lack of warning given to residents. Just Harvest provided statistics regarding the low-income population in Allegheny County and across the country. The goal is that those who participated in the poverty simulation can take what they learned and experienced to go out into their communities and change the way they look at low-income families. With the new-found knowledge of local statistics and everyday struggles, we encouraged students to help create change. 

  On the third day of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Wednesday, November 14, the Student Government Association sponsored RISE Against Hunger meal packaging from 6pm – 8pm in the Natali Student Union Performance Center. Over the course of two hours, 60 students were able to pack 10,000 meals to be distributed world-wide. RISE Against Hunger is making a noticeable impact by servicing multiple countries around the world to provide them with meals and resources to reach sustainability. The meal packing event utilizes an assembly line to pack as many meals as possible in the timeliest manner. This system proves to be effective in reaching the goals the RISE Against Hunger sets for the students.

Aside from these large-scale events, the Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning also hosted events throughout the week that focus on bringing awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding homelessness and food insecurity in our community. Overall, many students took it upon themselves to be involved all week long, taking the initiative to end hunger and homelessness in our community and around the world.