The Community Service Office and Habitat for Humanity at Keene State College teamed up to help spread consciousness of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week by hosting several events throughout campus Nov. 16 through the 24.
On Tuesday, Nov. 18, members of Habitat for Humanity gathered to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Hundred Nights Shelter. It was a small event held in the Atrium Conference Room, open to all students. Habitat for Humanity members set up stations for each student assisting in the PB&J sandwich making.
With stations complete with bread, knives and gloves, students had no problem smoothing jelly and smearing peanut butter to make the perfect sandwich. The event was scheduled to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. but ended early as the goal of 100 sandwiches had been reached.
Mikala Korbey is a member of Habitat for Humanity and helped make sandwiches for the event. “I did it last year and I knew they needed help to reach their goal,” Korbey said. She explained that she liked the event and hopes for a good turn out next year.
On Friday, Nov. 21, students were invited to the Hunger Banquet to obtain a new outlook on hunger, both locally and globally. Held by the Community Service Office [CSO] and sponsored by Oxfam America, a community-based organization that works to find solutions to poverty and hunger, the event was held in the Mabel Brown Room at 6 p.m. Members of the Keene community and KSC students were presented a card with a number on it. Depending on the number, participants either sat at a fold-out table, the ground or a decorative table accompanied with food and refreshments. When all were seated, members of the CSO read statistics about hunger in America, as well as the City of Keene.
They touched on the importance of knowing just how many people go hungry in America every day and that 6.5 million Americans are living in poverty.
Representatives of the CSO continued to tell participants what each numbered card represented — the modern class structure of America.
The participants lucky enough to draw a “1” card sat at the elaborate table and represented one percent of American population.
In order to be a part of this population, one must earn a minimal income of $394,000 per year.
Members of this population are able to afford a nutritious daily diet, according to statistics presented at the event.
Participants that drew a “2” sat at the fold-out tables and represented the middle class of America.
For most of the middle class population, it would only take an event such as “losing your job, a serious illness or a natural disaster to be thrown into poverty,” CSO statistics showed.
Participants sitting on the floor represented the majority of the world’s population.
Statistics show roughly 50 percent of Americans struggle to meet their basic families’ needs, such as food, water and shelter and many struggle to find work.
Participants were offered to eat meals that had been prepared for them. Members of the first table were served a luxurious meal that included lasagna, salad and sparkling cider.
The second table members were offered a plate of Hamburger Helper and water, while the participants on the floor were provided tomato soup and bread.
During the meal, volunteers of each group were asked to stand up to receive a new scenario.
Members from each group were affected by real-life situations, such as natural disasters and job loss.
Participants were then asked to downgrade to a lower class.
Situations like these helped show that a person’s financial stability can become insecure at any time, and nothing is guaranteed.
Kya Roumimper worked the event as a member of the CSO.
She said KSC looks to Oxfam to provide students with hunger and homelessness awareness.
Roumimper explained that most students don’t realize there is hunger in Keene.
“It’s not just starving to death — you wouldn’t see hunger just by looking around,” Roumimper explained.
She said it is not easy for students to understand hunger and homelessness because it is not relevant to how students live their everyday lives.
Lindsey Fuller, a member of CSO, also worked the event in hopes of spreading hunger and homelessness awareness to the students of KSC.
She explained that hunger is not just how much a person has to eat, but the quality of the food and nutrition they are getting.
“Homelessness isn’t just living in a shopping cart. Someone could be living in a shelter or staying with a friend,” Fuller said.
She said that by focusing more on hunger and homelessness in America, more students would feel the impact.
Members that participated in the event said they felt a large impact. Madeleine Nossiff lucked out with a “1” card and sat with fellow students representing one percent of Americans.
“My first thought was the amount of food — I was definitely aware of the abundance,” Nossiff said. She said she felt as though she was in a higher position than the other classes. “It was a good stimulation and very eye-opening,” Nossiff said as the event came to a close.
Nick Swain was a participant of the middle class that had been downgraded to the lower class after a natural disaster hit his supposed family during the stimulation.
“I come from a middle class family, but it really puts hunger and homelessness into perspective that anything can happen,” Swain said. Participants agreed that the stimulation was a success and were impacted by the event.
On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Great American Sleep Out was scheduled to take place on the student center lawn.
The event had expected 50-100 students to spend a night outside to bring awareness about homelessness in Keene.
The Sleep Out was cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions as temperatures continued to drop. Jeremiah Miller, director of the event, explained the Sleep Out was designed to attract students to ask questions about homelessness.
Miller explained his hopes of KSC Greek Life and athletic teams competing with each other to make for a fun event.
“Students will never understand homelessness until they face the conditions themselves,” he said. Miller said the event is rescheduled for the spring.
MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org