Finding something to eat may not be a problem for most students here in Hempstead, but one newly formed club seeks to address a global issue that leaves millions hungry outside of our campus gates. Hofstra University Hunger Project, or HUnger, was founded late last Spring as a campus chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger. The club seeks to generate hunger awareness and raise funds to donate to the UN World Food Programme.
Elisa dos Santos, a junior business economics major originally from Brazil, was inspired to form HUnger while searching for a speech topic to present to a class. After endlessly searching for a theme, Santos finally thought about hunger in the world today. She decided on the topic of hunger and made her speech, but didn’t stop there.
“Hunger is one of the main problems in the world. There are at least 925 million people going to bed hungry every night and I don’t think many people know about it,” said Dos Santos.
In an effort to increase awareness, Dos Santos started by collecting cans and bottles to raise money for the World Food Programme.
“It only takes 25 cents to feed a child,” said Dos Santos. “With each bottle recycled we get 5 cents, which means it only takes 5 bottles to feed a hungry child.”
One of the first members of HUnger, sophomore Criminology and Psychology major Nelson Palacios, decided to help Dos Santos with her recycling project due to his personal experiences facing hunger.
“Growing up in the Bronx, I was affected by hunger in middle school because I didn’t have much money to buy food for myself,” said Palacios. “I don’t think it’s fair for kids to go hungry because it’s impossible for them to earn money through working. Without food, there really isn’t much that kids can do; they can’t learn, they can’t play sports, it’s impossible to do anything when they’re hungry.”
A determined Dos Santos and Palacios cashed in their cans and bottles at Target and donated the money to the World Food Programme. But Dos Santos wanted to do more than just give money.
“I didn’t just want to send money into the World Food Programme, I wanted to see the change happening here in the community as well,” said Dos Santos. “If people don’t see change then it’s easy for them to just give up and expect somebody else to do it. However, if they do see change then they really feel like what they’re doing is having an impact and it feels great.”
So she formed a club with the help of Palacios and Pedro Gimenez, a senior marketing major and fellow Brazilian. Like Palacios, Gimenez had up-close experiences with world hunger.
“Even though there is poverty in the U.S., it’s much more visible in Brazil,” said Gimenez. “Every time [Dos Santos and I] go home we see hungry children and it makes us realize how lucky we are to be living here and how much more it makes us want to help.”
Ashley Gray, an assistant director for OSLA, now serves as the adviser to the HUnger Project. She noted how well put together and enlightened the three members were in their approach to the club.
“Their passion has been incredible to see,” said Gray.
The club hosted its first full meeting this September and was delighted when 20 students showed interest.
“[Santos and I] were very happy with the first meeting. We had a lot of people show up who were ready to get their hands dirty and really do some work,” said Gimenez.
With their club established, Dos Santos, Gimenez and Palacios plan to have HUnger sponsor and host events like the OSLA Hunger Banquet, Food Not Bombs and World Food Day this fall.
When reminded that the upcoming World Food Day is the same day as the 2012 Presidential Debate at Hofstra, Gray said jokingly, “Maybe we’ll have to do the event the day after then.”
“We will,” added Gimenez.
Originally published: The Hofstra Chronicle (September 20th, 2012, Page A-4)