Well, We Did It! by Micah Fry

Micah by a rockWell, we did it! After a culminating effort from the Ulrich museum, the WSU Ceramics Guild, and the WSU Hunger Awareness Initiative, the WSU Empty Bowls Chili Cook Off was a success! Having never been a part of an event like this, I must be honest and tell you I set my expectations low. I loved having those expectations blown away. I didn’t ever hear the final count on how many were in attendance, but there was a steady stream of people throughout the event. I really enjoyed working this event so I decided to blog about my experiences at my first Empty Bowls event.

20141018_124457A group of us met Friday evening to set up and prep bowls. One group worked on the silent auction room. Preparing and arranging items that were for sale. I do have to bunny trail and tell you how beautiful these pieces were! So incredible. We even had pieces in the silent auction from Italy. (Yay! Deborah Ballard-Reisch rocks!). Back in the main room, table cloths were put out and the bowls that had been stashed all around the ceramics lab were assembled onto carts. The carts were wheeled into the gym area and an assembly line style effort was established. I’m not sure I can paint a picture of just how many bowls there were, but trust me when I say there was a ridiculous amount of bowls. I was first in my assembly line so it was my job to take sandpaper to the rough areas of a bowl as I handed them off to be inspected, wiped down and sorted on the table.

Once the tables were covered by these gorgeously intricate bowls, the extras were tucked into boxes stationed underneath the tables. While I didn’t hear a final count of how many bowls there were total, the final count for bowls that were set out on the tables reached almost 600. What a sight!

The next day we reported around 10am. It was hit the ground running. At first it didn’t 20141018_133413seem like there was going to be that many chili entries, but as time for the event to start drew near, more and more crockpots came through that door. I was stationed serving chili. Specifically, I was in charge of “Ancho, Sweet Potato, Hominy” and “Oh Deer Me” (venison chili) and “Ghost Pepper”. In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t know what an ancho was until about 2 minutes into serving, but that didn’t really hold me back from pitching it to anyone who would listen. Serving was probably my favorite part. I enjoyed getting to see all the faces that turned out and hearing people weigh the different chilis as they ate out of their mini taste tester bowls. People were having fun and benefiting a great cause while doing it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The day wrapped up with the presentation of awards. Our four wonderful judges had labored over each and every chili. It was a great moment to wind down the day on as everyone gathered in to hear the results. People even joined in cheering for their favorites when they were mentioned. It was a great event and I was privileged to get to be a part of it!

I’ll leave you with a charge that originates from the idea of Empty Bowls. Think about them. Whenever you have the gifted opportunity to eat and fill your bowl, think about the empty bowls around the world or even the ones across town. Every dollar we raised this weekend provided four meals through the Kansas Food Bank. Don’t ever think that you can’t make a difference.

Feeling Hunger by Nozaina Khawar

Health-benefits-of-RamadanIf you’re someone like me your closest experience to hunger has been seeing images of malnourished children on TV and social media. When we think of hunger our brain immediately visualizes starving children in Africa. However, that is not the case. Hunger exists right among us. Your next door neighbor may be experiencing it, your best friend may have struggled with it, or someone as close as a relative may have dealt with it at some point in their life. In order to fight hunger it is first important to change the face of hunger.

Do you know what your next meal will be? 1 in 6 people in America don’t. Do you know where you’re going to find homeless1food? 16 million children in America are living in households that lack the means to provide nutritious food on a regular basis. These are adults and children much like us. The only difference is that they do not know what their next meal is going to be, where it will come from, and how they are going to get it.

Hunger is an issue which you have to feel personally in order to grasp the depth and effects of it. It not only has an impact on your physical well being but also your emotional and mental stability. Food is a basic human necessity, and once that is taken away from you it leaves you distraught.

My personal experience with hunger comes from my times of fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The purpose of Ramadan in Islam is to strengthen self control and discipline. It also enables you to feel how someone who struggles to feed themselves from a day to day basis feels. Fasting opens your eyes to the world around you, it humbles you, and it provides a glance into the life of someone dealing with the issue of hunger.

My first day of fasting began with a regular healthy breakfast right before dawn. Everything seemed to be going smooth until around noon. The loud sound of thunder that I heard wasn’t coming from outside but rather from within my stomach. I looked at the clock and thus began my 8 hour countdown to sunset when I would finally be able to eat.

To make the time go faster I tried taking a nap, only to wake up in the middle to a growling stomach sorry-all-snacking-ill-ramadan-ecard-someecardswhich felt like the shark from the movie Jaws attacking my stomach. This reminded me of the big animal with lots of teeth that Rick McNary described in his book, Hunger Bites. This was the first time I felt and agreed that hunger bites. And it bites hard.

That day helped me to put things into perspective. I felt the desperation and helplessness of a hungry person. I lacked the physical strength to accomplish tasks. I spent most of my time anticipating my next meal. It was an experience that brought me back to reality. However, I had the comfort of knowing that I would have a meal at the end of the day while there are people who don’t even have that assurance.

It is often easy to forget how privileged or blessed I am, but fasting allows me to understand the feelings of someone who lacks the resources and means to feed themselves. The uncertainty of where you’re going to find your next meal is an even more heart wrenching idea. Once we fully understand how it feels to be in a situation like that, it is only then we can begin to help fight hunger and bring change.

Financial Stability vs. Food Security by Erik Young

thuggin'it I can recall, years back, when a coworker of mine shared with me the secret to financial success.

It was a straightforward plan of action passed on to her from her father (a presumably wealthy man). The method’s beauty lies in its simplicity; for each paycheck you receive, you follow this three-step process:

Step 1: You pay yourself (savings, investments, and the like).

Step 2: You pay your bills. Then,

Step 3: You eat.

As I eagerly scribbled down the steps to ensure that I wouldn’t ever forget them, I realized that all my adult life I had been following this plan in reverse order. Most times, I didn’t even have a budget for Step 1. Oftentimes, my plan completely negated Step 1 and Step 2 was my prime focus. Sometimes, Step 3 was merely a pipe dream after Step 2 eroded my income away.

As I’ve become more attuned to hunger-related issues and awareness, I’ve been thinking a lot about the placement of food on the plan. It’s always been easy for me to blow off eating a decent meal for whatever reason. I’ve never had the healthiest of diets, and as I get older I can honestly say I’m starting to feel the consequences. Over the years I’ve slowly been phasing out my freezer full of Banquet meals and frozen burritos; replacing these staple items of my past with fresher foods that actually require effort to cook. Regardless of what I eat, I have still retained the old habit of eating one giant meal a day (if possible) and snacking in the time between.

B2Old habits die hard, indeed.

After some self-reflection, I realized that my situation was not solely a financially-based one, but one also consisting of issues with time management. I’ve always had a relatively hectic and erratic schedule, and committing a scheduled time to relax, prepare a meal, and dine at leisure was never an option for me.

Sure, we’re all busy. The multitasking nature of today’s society encourages us to do more with less time. If you are like me, a single person who has no urgent family life to attend to, eating on the go or sometimes foregoing a meal (or even forgetting to eat!) happens much more than it really should.

Take a look around as you explore food options outside of your own home. The prevalence of “dollar menus” and “value meals” that offer immediate satisfaction at an attractive price point has become so ingrained into our society that the unhealthy caloric intake is a tradeoff that seems fair at the time of consumption.

“Wow, a dollar for a burger? Cook me up a couple. I’ve got some quarters I need to get rid of. Oh, you have salads and wraps too? And they’re how much? Nevermind…”

Fast food chains have been trying to cater to the healthier-minded consumer, but honestly, who goes to McDonald’s craving apple slices? And how much are they, anyway? The price is buried somewhere under the prominent dollar menu board.

“Remember, no pickles on those burgers, please…”B1

I don’t browse the organic produce section of my local grocery store because I know that the premium price I would pay would not be financially sustainable for me on a week-to-week basis.  Sign me up for the close-dated markdown stuff and I’ll take a look, and if the selection is good I might just avoid the fast food drive-through on the way home altogether.

It’s quite possible that my budgeting skills aren’t up to snuff. Actually, that’s probably the case. You know the deal, something always comes up and money has to be moved around when playing the “prioritization game.” I’d rather get that late payment in on time to keep the lights on than worry if I’ll be garnishing a Hungry Man frozen meal with fresh arugula tossed in a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.

“Yes, keep the cheese on those plain burgers. Nothing but the meat and cheese, please…”

So where does that leave us? Let’s have a look at that plan again.

Financial stability stems from faithfully following Step 1. Step 2 is a necessary evil required to maintain a certain quality of life. The importance of Step 3 is critical for healthy human development, both physically and mentally. Food security is not a joke. However, it is also last on the list.

Eating healthy is a choice, and a good one to make, but many times the options provided to us aren’t pleasing to the pocketbook.  Convenience and price points go a long way in the decision making process when it comes to selecting a meal. With major issues such as poverty and hunger still in existence in the world today, maintaining financial stability is a struggle that many will never achieve. If Step 1 is already out of the question for many people, and Step 2 is a constant struggle, where does that leave Step 3?  Is one of the purposes of Step 1 to provide us with a buffer to ensure Step 3 gets followed regularly? Should Step 3 be the primary focus? Should we scrap the plan and create a new one altogether?

Financial stability and food security should never be in competition, regardless of income. Whether or not you subscribe to a three-step plan of action or your own method for financial success, keep in mind the importance of maintaining your health with a proper diet. It’s hard to resist society’s temptations of cheap, easy meals while at the same time keeping a close eye on your bank account balance, but a compromise must be reached.

Take the time to examine your own personal situation and decide where food falls in your list of priorities. It is on there, isn’t it?

My Story by Micah Fry

My sophomore year of college I got roped into helping with an honors project our Phi Theta Kappa chapter was putting together. Now, I say roped in because I was the kind of chapter member who really only attended the first meeting of the year and from there on out pretty much just scanned the meeting notes sent out in the mass email a week later.

Arriving at our very first planning meeting, I was intrigued to hear we were taking on a hunger project. Some dear friends of mine from Brazil had expressed their initial shock upon first arriving in the United States by the amount of food wasted.  And so our project began.

To summarize, the project had three parts: research, writing, and campaign. Research was mostly hands on as we surveyed students, along with gathering and physically measuring food waste from the cafeteria. From there we compiled the data, facts (did you know there are rules governing cafeteria portion sizing?), and research into a massive group paper. Armed with the information and data we had gathered, our group then launched an awareness campaign of sorts. This campaign was multi-faceted, but it is also where I found my biggest niche in the project. I took on the task of preparing rhetoric (flyers, table tents, etc) to be used within our campaign.

image 1.1

Throughout this project, I had the privilege of working with friends and fellow students from around the globe including compatriots from South America, Africa, and Asia. It became a very personal project as they each shared their own hunger story, and I began an inner dialogue that dissected the question of just what my hunger story was.

Here’s a portion of what I‘ve found out so far.  When I think about growing up and all the pieces that have played into my hunger story, what hunger means to me, my very first thoughts go to summer nights and dinner at my grandparents. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents throughout my childhood and was very fortunate to have them just across town, ready and willing for me to visit anytime I pleased. My grandparents had two gardens. The smaller, located in the backyard was for summer night dinners, and the larger, located several blocks from their home and covering the area of what would be a house plot, was for winter. Summers were filled with afternoons spent wandering rows of corn, watering plants, picking heads of cabbage, and just about every other detail that made the garden grow; any afternoon that I didn’t find my grandpa in the garden, I found him inside canning and freezer prepping vegetables to be stored for the winter.

The second part of this memory can be found around the dinner table. I wasn’t necessarily a picky eater as a child, but I just didn’t eat much. There was almost always food left on my plate. Without fail, when I said that I was too full to finish, my grandpa would respond that there are starving children right up the road who don’t have enough to eat so I should finish what I do have. Now, to be honest this was always a very perplexing thought because if they were just up the road and I had hot food on my plate, why in the world were we not walking it down the road and giving it to them.

Looking back, I understand grandpa was tipping his hat to what I have come to know as the war on hunger. He fought it in his own way–making me aware being an example. Every summer, without fail, an old wooden card table with a cardboard, black marketed sign boasting free vegetables goes up in my grandpa’s front yard. Every morning a portion of the previous day’s harvest is placed out to share. By noon, the table is empty and left to wait for the next day’s lot. Grandma once told me that most of the people she saw pick up the food were neighborhood kids. Kids who wouldn’t have healthy food, especially vegetables, on their table normally.

My grandparents paved the way and laid the foundation for my hunger story. They taught me two willing hands and an open dialogue can go along way in solving even the biggest problems we face.

Why Not? by Eryn Detmer

pic_1Hunger is a very important world issue. There is no arguing this fact. Even within our own community we are aware of hunger’s existence and often do what we can to support our local hunger fighting organizations. But there is a problem, our community has a social stigma against those who are on aid.  This is largely due to the fact that our culture makes incorrect assumptions about the people who use aid.

The government decides how much aid money is allotted to each state based on the Census.  Using this data, I found out that Wichita left a whopping $7,924,279.00 in unclaimed benefits as of 2008.

At a personal level I have seen people suffer from a lack of aid based on the stigma associated with using it.  Previously, I had a neighbor in who lived in an upper middle class neighborhood who had to rent her house because her husband did not have a steady job.  She was worried that she would be unable to feed her children every single day.  However, she had not considered trying to gain assistance from the government.  My mother suggested this option to her because she had sought assistance herself when my sister and I were only 4 and 2 following divorce. Unfortunately, even after my neighbor knew she qualified for assistance she did not go and seek it. pic_3This is because of the ongoing strong negative social stigma associated with food assistance.

I am not an idiot, I used to work at a gas station that excepted the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards.  I have personally watched drug addicts buy 6 energy drinks instead of feeding their children like they should have. But this is not representative of everyone using assistance.  People should not have to worry about being stereotyped about who they are just because they are using governmental assistance.

“Well they are taking our tax dollars to eat junk food,” people say, “Which is hurting our economy.”  

In reality, for every 5.5 billion put into the program 9.8 billion gets put back into the economy.[1]

Math doesn’t lie.  Our society needs to know that these stigma’s are not representative and that people can find legitimate help in these programs.  We can all help end these stigma’s.  Merely changing your facial expression next time the person in front of you uses their SNAP card or giving someone who is struggling the link to the assistance website can be helpful.  We can all do without having to do anything special at all.

[1]   http://frac.org/wpcontent/uploads/2011/01/urbansnapreport_jan2011.pdf

WSU Hunger Initiative Team Presenting at the 2014 Kansas Hunger Dialogue

2014 Kansas Hunger Dialogue

On Feb. 26, we presented two main sessions at the Kansas Hunger Dialogue in Hyatt Regency Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. We presented on three topics with the time allotted. For each topic, we are sharing our presentation materials here for any Kansas Hunger Dialogue participants as well as any interested individuals who cannot attend the conference to use. Click on the links below to get the materials to build upon your initiative.

The WSU Hunger Awareness team urges you to adopt our five-pillar model when you are doing your action planning. We are also using the Google service as our main technology platform to join hunger-fighting efforts, creating the connectivity for sustainability.

1. Five-Pillar Model: Collaborators, Media, Events, Research & Community Engagement

2. Strategically Planning Your Own Initiative (Action Planning)

3. Utilizing Technology to Unify Universities: Building the Kansas Hunger Space

Round Table session in Southwest Popular Culture Conference

To share our knowledge, the WSU Hunger Awareness team is presenting our five-pillar model on Feb. 22 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Albuquerque, NM. The presentation focuses on our five-pillar model and its application for those who wish to start their own hunger initiative. The PowerPoint for the conference is shared here for the public use.

After this conference presentation, the team will have the two following events:
1. The 4th KS Hunger Dialogue
    Date: Feb. 25, 26, 2014
Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Wichita, KS
2. The 9th Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit
Date: Feb. 28, 2014 ~ March 1, 2014
Location: The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center in Auburn, Alabama

If you are interested and want to get a copy of our presentation materials, we will be updating the information on our social media channels. Follow us here at the WSU Hunger Awareness blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Join us in the hunger space and make a difference!