Hunger close to UMass? how to help

Kitchens prepare this week as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Many Americans stuff their bellies, but imagine being hungry? Students at the University of Massachusetts will have the chance to learn about the effects of hunger in western Massachusetts at an unusual workshop on Monday, November 21.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will offer a Hunger Simulation Workshop: Food For Today in 620 Thompson Hall from 5:30 – 6:30 pm. The workshop will explain the effects of hunger in the region, and offer ways to stop it.

“We are hoping that this workshop will help students to better understand the root causes of hunger and the difficult experiences food insecure families have in trying to obtain healthy food,” said Margaret Hersey, a senior STPEC major, event organizer.

The Food Bank distributes 7.6 million pounds of food to over 400 food pantries, meal sites, shelters, residential programs, and youth and elder care centers.

One of four in the state, it serves the four western Massachusetts counties. The food comes from donations and government programs. Last year it provided food for more than 108,000 people, including the working poor, seniors and children.

A 60-acre farm in Hadley also provides 100,000 to 200,000 pounds of produce for the bank each year. Along with food distribution, the Food Bank works with many agencies and local school systems to educate residents about hunger in the region.

The workshop will incorporate a hunger simulation role play game, said Hersey. Participants get assigned a character and a character description. They are told what their job is, how many people are in their family, whether or not they have a car, etc, she said.

They then use the resources that they are given in the character descriptions in order to provide food for their families over the course of three days (each day is ten minutes in the simulation).

The point is to show that those people given very limited resources have a much more difficult time with this, and may not be able to access what they need, sometimes even when they have the help of the social service agencies that are part of the game, said Hersey.

Students may live day-to-day unaware of how many of their neighbors struggle to eat each week.  Because it is a current concern in the Western Massachusetts area, The Food Bank provides ways in which students can get involved, including internships.

“Through my time interning at the Food Bank I have seen that they have a lot of really cool programs going on,” said Hersey.  “I think that when other students learn about these programs will be interested in getting involved with them too.”

Along with many scheduled events each month, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provides security to those who struggle daily. The Food Bank assists those who may want to sign up for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program.

If you would like to help alleviate hunger in the Western Massachusetts area, The Food Bank welcomes donations.  Monthly donations as well as one-time donations are welcome over the phone or via email.

Advocating can also help reduce hunger. The Food Bank suggests signing up for their Food Bank Advocacy Action Alerts.

Volunteers are also welcomed at the Food Bank. After attending a volunteer orientation, you are eligible to participate in the many processes performed at the Food Bank. Volunteers can help plan special events, support the Food Bank’s specific food distribution programs, work in the office, and sort food.

If you would like to attend the workshop on Monday, register online at http://www.foodbankwma.org/take-action/foodfortoday/ or call (413) 247-9738

“We are hoping that after this workshop students who attend will understand that food insecurity is a major issue that exists in their own community, as well as across the country,” said Hersey.

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About LSinclair

I am a Junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying Journalism and Anthropology. I am interested in photojournalism. I hope to some day travel the world and write for National Geographic
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