Week to raise poverty awareness

By Courtney Klemm

Volunteer Illini Projects (VIP) hopes to use a series of informational events to promote poverty awareness for National Hunger and Homelessness Week.

Campuses across the nation hold the event annually in conjunction with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness (NSCAHH).

The week starts with a letter-writing contest Monday on the Quad from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants who can write letters to Congress in under 90 seconds will win a prize. Each letter will be in support of legislation related to hunger and homelessness.

“I’m very excited; I hope to have a big turnout,” said Gillian Nichols-Smith, senior in LAS and director of Hunger and Homelessness Projects for VIP.

Laura Purdue, junior in ACES and Hunger and Homelessness coordinator for Women in Transition, said she thought she knew a lot about these social issues until she attended a weekend-long conference on the topic.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “After going (to a NSCAHH conference) and hearing all of the statistics, I learned so much more and became so much more aware and motivated to make a difference,” she said. “Hopefully once people get informed, they will want to take steps to change (these issues) in any way they can.”

    On the Quad Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., there will be a fair trade coffee table, where samples of equal exchange and fair trade coffee will be available. Volunteers will be giving out information on how they feel this type of coffee is a better choice than others.

    The Hunger Banquet will take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. in room 103 of the Illini Union. It will include a demonstration on how people are divided by income level. Everyone will be divided into different classes and served a meal based on that class. During the meal, there will also be informational speakers.

    A wasted foods survey is planned for Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Peabody Drive dining hall. Students who eat during this meal will have their plates weighed to determine how much food is being thrown away. All of the numbers will be added to give students an idea of how much food they waste in one meal.

    There will also be a Faces of Homelessness panel held on Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Illini Union room 214B. Representatives from different agencies as well as homeless people will be speaking at the panel.

    Sara Gilman, freshman in LAS, is the project coordinator for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and said she thinks the panel and Hunger Banquet will have great turnouts.

    “We’ve put a lot of work into those,” she said. “They also appeal to a wide range of people.”

    One of the goals of the coordinators of Hunger and Homelessness Week is to raise awareness of these issues in the community as well as nationally. Nichols-Smith, who has been involved with the hunger and homelessness project for about a year, said she wants people to see that homelessness and hunger reflect societal beliefs.

    “It’s not just an individual problem; it’s a structural problem, too,” she said. “(This week) will open people’s eyes to how close and connected they are to poverty.”

    Gilman took advantage of Hunger and Homelessness Week as an opportunity to get involved with community service.

    “I think it’s important to help those in need in the community,” she said. “Anyone can be in that position at any time.”