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Thursday, December 18, 2014

HungerU aims to feed the famished

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Marshall Dolch, left, speaks to UNM student Prudence Simon about HungerU, a campaign that travels to colleges and universities around the country to spread awareness of the growing hunger crisis in the United States and around the world. HungerU campaigns using a mobile trailer, which has several interactive exhibits on board, including a hunger wheel that attendees can spin for prizes and a bean toss.

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For HungerU crew member Mollie Dykes, food is a basic human right.

“These kids in school, if they’re hungry, that’s the only thing they’re thinking about,” she said. “It’s affecting their grades, their performance in school. It’s having a long-term effect on them.”

HungerU is a mobile tour that travels around the country to raise awareness about world hunger among college students and inform them about practical ways to fight hunger, according to the HungerU website.

Dykes said her agricultural background and her desire to help children who were struggling with hunger inspired her to get involved with HungerU. She said the organization is nearing the end of an 11-week tour of the southern region of the country to educate students on college campuses. She said HungerU raises awareness by engaging students in different activities, such as taking surveys, playing Baggo and viewing a TV that displays facts about hunger.

“Our farmland is disappearing at a rate of two football fields per second, and that’s one of the questions on (the survey),” she said. “That always surprises students.”

HungerU crew member Mallory Weber said the representatives for the organization go to various areas of the country during tours.

“We pick an area of the country and then we go from there and decide,” she said. “We get in contact and see who wants to have us, who can have us, what works with their schedule.”

HungerU collaborated with and promoted other organizations to help students combat hunger, such as Stop Hunger Now, Feeding America and Campus Kitchens, Dykes said.

“Colleges will have chapters of the Campus Kitchens project, and they’re a food recovery program,” she said. “They go in to your student union, your cafeteria and recover all of the food that wasn’t served at the end of the day. Then they package it up and donate it to students on campus who may not have an extensive meal plan, or they also donate it to food pantries in the community.”

Dykes said one way HungerU emphasizes the extent of the problem of hunger to students is by helping them realize it is likely happening in their own community.

“College campuses are some of the most common for those food-insecure people,” she said. “There’s a misconception that if you can pay for books and tuition and all of those fees, that you can automatically pay for food. Money runs out at some point, and sometimes it’s before you can buy that food.”

Weber said she also got involved with HungerU because of her agricultural background.

“My personal take on it is that we don’t have that much time on this Earth, and we shouldn’t have to spend it worrying about where out food is coming from,” she said. “There are just simply too many people who don’t know where their food is coming from.”