With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us already have food on the brain. With that in mind, EIU’s Office of Student Community Service is spending the month of November raising awareness about hunger-related issues and collecting non-perishable food items as part of its EIU Hunger Challenge.
“The last couple years, our office has piloted a program called 30 Days of Change,” explained SCS Director Rachel Fisher. “This year, we were able to engage Student Government and some other students to help us create the EIU Hunger Challenge.”
While past Novembers have seen SCS staging one hunger-related event per day throughout the entire month, it has scaled back the sheer volume of events in favor of really focusing on a handful of excellent service opportunities. The core of the efforts, however, remains intact in the form of a campus-wide canned food drive.
Last year, the collection netted around 3,000 items for the Charleston Food Pantry and Eastern Illinois Foodbank; Fisher has upped the ante by aiming for 5,000 canned or nonperishable food items.
Fisher is also particularly excited about the Nov. 6 film screening of Food Stamped, a documentary following a couple’s month long quest to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget.
“It’s a wonderful film,” said Fisher. “This is a big event for us, and we’re really pushing to get people to attend.”
Following the viewing of the film, Dr. Michael Gillespie of the EIU Department of Sociology/Anthropology will lead a group discussion.
“Michael has done great research on the sociological and longitudinal history of poverty,” said Fisher. “He’ll talk about food stamps and the food stamp program now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).”
For the rest of that week, willing participants will be encouraged to participate in the SNAP Challenge and attempt to live on the food money available to a SNAP-aided citizen. Afterward, they’ll be able to log on to the SCS website and share their feelings about the experience.
Fisher is also bringing back the Freeze Out Hunger two-mile race on the Panther Trail around the campus pond; the event is Tuesday, Nov. 27, and the $10 entry fee is all donated to the food pantry.
“For every dollar you give the food pantry, it can be turned into $10 worth of food,” reminds Fisher. “So it’s tremendous how a $10 registration fee can give $100 worth of food to the food pantry.”
SCS is also looking to raise an additional $500 through its Paper Plate Advocacy program. Every Monday throughout the month, students can write their hunger-related thoughts on a paper plate in the MLK Jr. Union Bridge Lounge; every plate created will be sent to the governor’s office and will also result in a $1 donation to the food pantry.
“There’s the potential to raise hundreds of dollars and raise awareness, just by having students share what’s on their minds,” said Fisher, who also stressed the Stuff the Bus event planned before EIU’s home football game on Nov. 10. From 9 a.m. until the 11 a.m. kickoff, donations will be accepted in an attempt to fill up a busload of nonperishable items. Also, during the week of Thanksgiving, SCS has provided students with ideas for ways they can remain vigilant even as they head home for a holiday away from classes.
“This is a challenge to us to make our community better,” said Fisher. “We’re an excellent community, but we can be phenomenal. We want to stop and end hunger.”
For more information and a full listing of EIU Hunger Challenge events, check out the Student Community Service website.