University raises awareness of global hunger

St. John’s is gearing up for Hunger Awareness Month, which starts Nov. 1. The events planned throughout the month are sponsored by different departments within the University, including Campus Ministry, Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Student Wellness.

“Our hope is that with Hunger Awareness Month events and activities, that there are more opportunities for students to be engaged and more discussion about global poverty issues,” said Widian Nicola, resident campus minister for social justice, who is in charge of two of the events.

“We want to make sure and offer opportunities for growth in this area, in more simulating ways-really capture the heart of the work we’re doing and get them [students] involved. Because I think that’s what student engagement is, it’s really student driven,” she added.

One of the events that Nicola is involved with is the Hunger Banquet, which will be held Nov. 12 from 7-10 p.m. in the UC Commons. Nicola said students will get placed in one of three categories: the underdeveloped world, the developing world or the developed world. The amount of food that they get to eat will depend on what category they are placed in.

Nicola spoke about what she hoped students would take away from participating in the Hunger Banquet.

“The people that we’re trying to capture in this experience aren’t going to have the option of going to Montgoris after, or Marillac.”

Janet Kalish, a member of a group called Freegans, will be the guest speaker at the Hunger Banquet. Freegans are a group of individuals who get most of their food “dumpster diving,” said Nicola.

“A lot of the stuff that they find is stuff you would never know was fresh from a dumpster,” she added.

Another event Nicola is overseeing is the Pig Out for Poverty, taking place Nov. 17. Nicola said the Pig Out for Poverty event was initiated in a high school in New Jersey, when a few of the students started collecting money from other students during lunch and donating it to Catholic Relief Services. That money went to buy livestock for families across the globe. Nicola contacted the school to find out more about the program, which had been called Dime a Day.

The University had a live pig named Elvis on campus for the Pig Out for Poverty event last year; Nicola said she hopes to bring him back to campus again this year.

Last year, 100 students participated, creating piggy-banks to collect money. Nicola said the University raised $1,000 in change and $600 in bills, all of which went to a village in Guatemala. She said that this money could buy between 20-25 pigs.

“The neat thing, considering global poverty [and] the effects that this micro-lending is that 20 pigs for a small village is quite a lot, so that stimulates the economy in greater ways than we can probably even imagine,” said Nicola.

Other events planned for Hunger Awareness Month include A Night in Solidarity (Nov. 5), which Nicola described a “sleep out for the homeless,” during which students spend the night on the Great Lawn; Festival of Lights (Nov. 19), celebrating holidays from various different religions; and School of the Americas Peace March (Nov. 20-22), during which a group of students will travel to Fort Benning, Ga. to protest the School of the Americas, a U.S. Army School that trains Latin American soldiers.

Nicola said that there would be more marketing for the Hunger Awareness Month events this year than there was last year.

“We really want to cover every square inch of this campus,” she said. “We’re doing a lot more marketing this year than we did last year, primarily because we were brand new and we didn’t know how successful [it would be], but we could not believe the success of last year.”

Nicola added that by having less events, the marketing could be more focused.

“Last year we had even more events, but we thought why push everybody around,” she said. “If we just have two or three huge events and really focus our efforts and energy on making those quite impactful, then that would be a much better direction.”