National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (NHHAW) takes place on Nov. 12-20 this year and is always one week before Thanksgiving. The main idea behind NHHAW is to raise awareness of major issues that the less fortunate face in society, according to the NHHAW’s website.
According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, around 726,020 people in Indiana are facing hunger. The National Center for College Students with Disabilities Clearhousing and Resource Library states that, “Hunger, food insecurity, and homelessness are on the rise among college students across the country. These students are often called ‘disconnected’ or ‘highly mobile’ students, but most of them can be ‘connected’ students with good support and resources.” University of Indianapolis Associate Director of Residence Life Robbie Williford said homelessness and hunger is a problem everywhere.
“I think there are things in place, not at UIndy necessarily, but in the world and in the nation that prevent people from having access to sustainable housing [and] sustainable food sources,” Williford said.
According to Students Against Hunger, a study that was completed at the College and University Food Bank Alliance by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups, found that “after surveying college students on food insecurity between March and May 2016… 48% of respondents reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22% with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.”
Associate Director of Inclusive Excellence and Retention Strategy Jolanda Bean thinks that food insecurity is a problem on campus.
“It is [a problem] for students… whether you like the food [on campus] or not…you’re required to have [a meal plan]… for students that live in residence halls,” Bean said.
There are resources for students if they are struggling with hunger or homelessness at The Terry and Janet Center for Campus Connections, according to Bean. The Terry and Janet Center is located on the second floor of the Schwitzer Student Center in Room 208.
“I know that everyone has a different situation and then we really work on [each situation differently]. We will work with housing [and] we will work with other community partners if need be,” Bean said.
When it comes to dealing with homelessness on the UIndy campus, Williford said that whenever the university learns that someone on campus may be experiencing homelessness, they first try to connect them to as many resources as possible on campus.
“It is more of a collaborative effort and it is dependent on the situation,” Williford said.
Bean said that UIndy gives back to campus in many ways, such as providing the students, faculty and staff access to the campus food pantry.
“The UIndy Food Pantry [started] maybe a year [or] two years ago… and it is open to anyone at the University of Indianapolis,” Bean said. “[The food pantry is located] at the University Heights Methodist Church.”
The pantry is across the street from Esch Hall and the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The UIndy Food Pantry offers non-perishable food to students, faculty and staff and is first come, first served, according to the UIndy Food Pantry via an email sent on Oct. 31. It is open every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. this semester. There are plans in-progress to establish a permanent location for the pantry on-campus, according to the email.
Bean said when it comes to UIndy students giving back to those in hunger or those fighting homelessness, there are student groups who are collecting food or funds.
“A lot of times [people at the university] do not think about those issues [of hunger and homelessness], but those issues happen at all schools and at all communities… so making that aware and making sure that people know that there are people here on our campus who are willing to help [is important].”
When it comes to dealing with hunger and homelessness, Bean said herself and her colleagues work one-on-one with each student. Students can receive help by reaching out to the Student Affairs Office of Inclusive Excellence or Retention Strategies, which are both located in Schwitzer Student Center on campus.
Students can contact Bean via email at email@example.com if they are struggling with hunger and/or homelessness.