The Claremont Colleges community began hosting a series of events Saturday supporting National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The week’s events aim to augment 5C students’ understanding of how hunger affects the surrounding communities in the Inland Empire.
The events were organized by the Draper Center for Community Partnerships at Pomona College with support from the 5C organization Challah for Hunger, the Center for Civic Engagement at Claremont McKenna College and the Pomona Residence Hall Staff.
“We want students to be able to consider the impact of hunger, to experience it and then to be able to have a conversation about it,” said Maria Tucker, Director of the Draper Center. “The Draper Center wants students to be able to reflect on what they’ve listened to, and that’s where most of the real learning happens.”
The first event of the week, a screening of the film Hunger Hits Home, took place at Rose Hills Theatre yesterday. The film, which was produced by the Food Network, seeks to convey the difficulties of living in a constant fear of hunger as both a child and a family.
The week’s biggest event is the Social Justice Gala, which is taking place tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. By partnering with Challah for Hunger and nine other 5C student organizations, the Draper Center hopes to increase student awareness of hunger throughout the community, Tucker said.
Speakers from local organizations that actively combat hunger in the Inland Empire, including the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, the Second Harvest of San Bernardino and Inland Valley Hope Partners will hold panels on topics such as the social implications of hunger, effective techniques to fight hunger locally and how 5C students can involve themselves in efforts to address the issue.
“We actually live in a place with some of the most extreme food insecurity in the country,” Tucker said. “The city of San Bernardino has the second highest rate of hunger in the country. So these issues are very present locally, they’re very present in our reach as a college. Students have agency and they have the ability to alter the present realities of our local community.”
Erika Parks PO ’13, Director of Outreach for Challah for Hunger and a Draper Center Fellow, has been heavily involved in organizing the Social Justice Gala. She bakes challah bread weekly with Challah for Hunger, which donates all its profits to charity. She said that half of the proceeds go to relief efforts in Darfur through American Jewish World Services and the other half are donated to Los Angeles organizations focused on social justice issues, particularly food justice.
“We want to get people thinking about the fact that there are people very near to us who are dealing with hunger on a day-to-day basis,” Parks said. “When people think about hunger, they often think about downtown LA, but they don’t really think about us because we’re out here in the suburbs.”
A raffle will be held at the gala to benefit Kids Pack, a local organization that provides low-income students who receive free lunch from school with healthy lunches on the weekends. The Draper Center is also organizing a volunteer trip with Kids Pack Nov. 24.
Parks sees the gala as the perfect combination of two different approaches to social justice.
“My work at the Draper Center I see more as building relationships with people, while Challah for Hunger is more advocacy-based. They fit together because they are two complementing ways to approach social justice issues,” she said.
In addition to raising awareness through campus-wide advocacy, Parks said she hopes that the events will spur students to get involved off campus.
“My goal is, one, to get people thinking about issues but, two, to hopefully mobilize them to start doing something about issues,” she said. “We’re so insulated here on campus from so many things. We think about a lot of things intellectually and academically but there’s much less action. I’m hoping that hearing people who don’t think about it academically but work specifically to alleviate hunger will be more eye-opening than just hearing about the issue of hunger.”
The week’s program continues Saturday with a Sagehens Engage! Community Engagement trip with Pomona Valley Christian Center to volunteer at their Pancake Breakfast and serve food to residents of the city of Pomona.
The final event of the week, the Hunger Banquet, will take place Sunday.
Tucker said she did not “want to give too much away” about the event in advance.
According to Hunger Awareness Week’s Facebook page, the banquet will give “unique insight into what it feels like to struggle against a cycle of poverty and how sustainable solutions and access to nutritional foods can help combat this problem.”