Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week advocates for eliminating poverty

The Civic and Community Engagement Center (CCEC) celebrated Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW) at Ramapo Nov. 13-19. HHAW is a national event sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, and it has been held the week before Thanksgiving since 1975. More than 700 colleges, schools and community groups continue to host HHAW events to spread awareness of the severity of poverty.

The CCEC began the week on Monday afternoon with a roundtable discussion with the President’s Committee On Campus Sustainability on how club leaders can make their on-campus events and the food provided for them more sustainable. Later that day, CCEC held an open house to remind students of what services they provide.

Tuesday evening the CCEC hosted Stratified Monopoly, where participants played a game of Monopoly that educated them on social class stratification. The game consisted of real-life restrictions across the board that everyday people around the world face.

Wednesday afternoon CCEC’s We Care Program held an open house in ASB to present the various services We Care offers to students in need, including the Student Relief Fund, Food Pantry, Clothing Closet and newly added Laptop Upcycle @ Ramapo.

On Wednesday evening, the biggest and most anticipated event of the week was the Oxfam Hunger Banquet, which has been hosted annually by various volunteer organizations and schools since 1974. This is an interactive event that separates participants into three socio-economic classes – low-, middle- and high-income – to get a firsthand experience of class and hunger disparities.

“We are here today because more than 1.8 billion people were living in poverty before we were faced with a Coronavirus pandemic. Those 1.8 billion people were living on the equivalent of less than $3.20 per day, or $1,168 per year, which is the international poverty line. Today, they account for 24% of the global population,” said Sydney Karlin, the student staff coordinator of civic and political engagement and Andrew Goodman ambassador for CCEC.

Since the pandemic, an estimated additional 175 to 223 million people have entered poverty. Additionally, nearly 40% of the global population do not have the economic resources or accessibility to afford a healthy diet that meets the required nutrient intake, even though the planet produces enough food to feed the entire population.

“Poverty is solvable, but it is important to acknowledge the poverty is a problem rooted in hundreds of decades of discrimination and injustice. Eliminating these injustices is an overwhelming but necessary task, which begins with education,” Karlin said.

Attendees were assigned their meals for the night based on their income. The single high-income table was served first, and their nutritious meal consisted of rolls, vegetables, chicken and dessert. The few tables of middle-income individuals had rice and beans for dinner. The largest group of people – low-income individuals – were seated on the floor atop old newspapers, and their dinner consisted of only rice and water.

“I think that we were able to really demonstrate the gaps in between the different [socio-economic] classes very well,” said Moss Killion, the student staff coordinator of We Care.  “I don’t think a lot of people understand that they meet people every day that struggle to provide for themselves. There are people on campus who are struggling to provide for themselves, and we just see them as everyday students and we don’t understand their struggle.”

On Thursday afternoon, a Wellness Is Now Peer Educator joined the CCEC for Revitalize Your Ramen, where attendees had access to a build-your-own ramen bar and were taught how they can boost the nutritional value of ramen. Thursday evening ended with a screening of the 2017 documentary “Dolores,” which follows activist Dolores Huerta, best known for co-founding the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez.

The Women’s Center and the CCEC hosted Clued-In: Queer and Trans Hunger and Homelessness Info Session Friday afternoon to educate others about the severe issues of hunger and homelessness within the queer community. They provided attendees with information on several resources students can utilize on- and off-campus that can support struggling queer students.

HHAW concluded on Saturday with Donation Day. We Care collected food and clothing donations at the men’s and women’s basketball games.

“Hunger and homelessness are a major epidemic in the United States, and especially across the entire world. It’s important that we as college students consider our privilege, seek out knowledge about these issues and try to put in effort to try to resolve or at least spread the word about how big of a deal it is,” said Alanna Branco, CCEC’s coordinator of community service.

Photo courtesy of Office of Marketing & Communications at Ramapo College.