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.

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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!

Yummy chicken soup and a cookbook recipe call!

Wichita State University Hunger Awareness:

Affordable and delicious. Take a look at this recipe from our guest blogger, Dr. Ballard-Reisch.

Originally posted on Deborah's Deliberations:

Chicken soup for the soul, or how to make a quick and easy chicken soup that feeds 5 for under $15

Total cost: $13.89 with leftover food in most categories for a second batch

Necessary tools:

To me, the most indispensable item to have in your kitchen to help college students (and families) to eat well with minimal prep time is a crockpot or other slow cooker. One warning: you cannot keep a soup in the crockpot for 3 weeks and then think it will still be good. My daughter learned this the hard way and the stench that wafted through her small apartment when she took the lid off the crockpot should guarantee that she doesn’t make that mistake again. It is best to eat the first helping of whatever you make and store the rest in the frig in serving sized containers for later consumption. If you…

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Karen’s 16 Hints for Mindful Shopping by Karen Coen (Guest Blog)

1.     Check the cabinets to see what you have and what you might need.  Tape a list inside the cabinet and when you notice you need something, write it on the list, then you have a shopping list started for when you have to go shopping.

2.     Make a weekly menu. Sometimes this changes because you may not have something or forgot to get it, or ran out of money.  Be flexible and creative. You may have to make a meal with foods that you might not ordinarily see together as a meal, but if it is nutritionally good and your family will eat it, then it will keep them from going hungry.

3.     Make a grocery list of needed items, and stick to it.  NO extras.  There will be times that you can, but not always. If there are children and you have a little extra, get something they all like, or something that one likes and maybe next time get something that someone else likes.  Be fair.

4.     Buy store brands when possible.  Compare prices, sometimes a name brand is cheaper because of a sale.

5.     USE COUPONS!! But don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. Buy it only if you need it.

6.     Take a calculator to the store.  Be aware of the tax rate and know how to add this to your amount. Don’t get to the register and act surprised that you don’t have enough money, and have to put things back. Not only is it embarrassing, it causes more time in line for you, the cashier, and other customers. Besides, in an attempt to hurry, you may put something back that you REALLY needed.

7.     Watch the sale ads.  Sometimes you can get extra of something and freeze it.

8.     ALWAYS check the “Clearance” aisles.  Sometimes stores will put things on clearance that haven’t even got to the shelf date.  Breads that you can get for $.49 and freeze.

9.     Try not to go shopping with children – so you don’t have “can I have this?!” or “can we get that?”

10.  Try not to buy too many convenience foods - (foods that are already cooked, and all you have to do is warm them up). They are more expensive and have more preservatives.

11.  Watch your portions!  Know what an actual serving size is.  Americans have more health and weight problems because we don’t pay attention to this.

12.  Don’t eat out!  Not only is this expensive, but here again is prepared foods which have more caloric values than something you could have fixed at home.

13.  Feel like you don’t have the time?  Teach the kids to help with some of the food preparations.  Added bonus, if you teach them to make menus and lists, when they are adults they will have a better chance to make wise choices and live healthy.  Take the time so that your family will be healthier.  Be an example!  Turn off the tv for a few minutes and go cook something.  Prepare for the next day.

14.  Buy fresh fruit and vegetables when you can.  If this is not an option, canned will work.  Buy fruits in juice or water.

15.  Find ways to stretch your food.  Make casseroles.  If you are making Hamburger Helper, use ½ pound of meat and add  a handful of macaroni, and a couple of slices of cheese, or you can add a can of vegetables into the mixture and have a different vegetable on the side.   If you are making a Mexican dish, add a can of pinto beans or black beans.  Makes the meal go farther.

16.  If you can get samples or reduced price items, try them. If you like them, you can buy them again. If not, you don’t have to.

This is My Reality by Hannah Coen

Recently, I took the SNAP Challenge. For anyone who has not followed our Facebook or Twitter, the SNAP challenge is an effort to raise awareness of the difficulties of those who live on food stamps. This experiment has gained local and national media attention from congressional representatives and senators taking part in the challenge to the CEO of Panera bread. The WSU Hunger Awareness Initiative decided to take the challenge of living off of $4.50 per day for a week.

My initial reaction to the challenge was that I would eat like I did as an intern in D.C.—pbj’s, ramen and microwave meals. I talked about the project and the initiative so much that my mother decided she would also take part in the challenge. She created a shopping list and a meal plan with caloric count and tally’s for fruits, vegetable, grains and proteins. Needless to say, her plan sounded like a better idea than my ramen-plan did. We drove to Aldi’s and I decided that I would try it my mom’s way. Frankly, I could always learn how to eat better on a budget.

I was impressed at my mother’s organization and planning skills. I learned many lessons throughout this process. First, eating out is expensive. I spent $30 for a week of food. It really put into perspective how much food is marked up at restaurants. Additionally, meal planning is the most important aspect of eating healthy on a budget. I also was able to evaluate my food intake on a level that I never had done before.

Throughout this process, my mom sent me texts while I was at work or at school “Why aren’t you eating?” or “You haven’t touched your food.” I didn’t think much about it. Like mother’s do, my mother stresses that I don’t eat enough –every semester. At the end of each semester, I get sick. Like, I potentially should see a doctor but I don’t have health insurance sick, but that’s another blog for a different day. As insane as this sounds, I never made the connection because I’ve not lost weight or suffered from fainting spells. By day four, I looked at my little shelf stacked with food for the week. I still had over half of my food left.

I noticed several “themes” in my eating habits.

  1. I do not have time to prepare food. As a working college student, I would rather sleep an extra 30 minutes than prepare my food for the day—this is my reality. I can suffer through being hungry, but I can’t function without coffee.
  2.  Now, I’m also an emotional eater. Stress mixed with colder days and mild depression, I don’t want to go anywhere, I don’t want to see anyone, and I can hardly stomach a full meal—but let’s not talk about my love affair with the Donut Hole.
  3. As a working college student, I go from classes to work, and eating is not on the top of my priority list. I may grab a cereal bar to eat with my coffee on the way out the door, but I won’t have a meal until I get home in the evenings around 8 or 9 p.m., which we all know isn’t healthy either.

 

I gave myself $4.50 per day for a week, or roughly $30, and I didn’t even eat half of what I bought. This is my reality. This is the reality of many people in academia. However, I feel almost a sense of elitism blogging about my week-long experience. My current food insecurity is a result of my hectic schedule; whereas, other’s food insecurity is an everyday occurrence.

By the way, my mom, Karen is writing guest blogs for us on how to eat healthy on a budget. Her tips and insights will be posted here next week. Stay tuned!