According to Oxfam – and international organization focused on combatting poverty, as of 2010, 925 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger. This number is greater than the population of the European Union, Canada, and the United States combined. Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in more than 90 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.
During the fall semester, the Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning sponsored John Jay’s inaugural Stop Hunger Now events where John Jay students assisted in packaging 10,000 meals that are sent around the world to areas that have the greatest need, mostly to children’s school lunch programs in 45 different countries. The free school meal is also an incentive for parents to send their children to school.
On December 9, the Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning exceeded their goal of 10,000 by packing 20,000 meals by 2 p.m.
“As an office we try to engage students in exciting and thought provoking projects. This meal packing is part of an awareness campaign around hunger and homelessness. Over the last few years at John Jay, hunger issues are something that students have been very interested in,” said Declan Walsh Director of Community Outreach. “For each event we organize 150 student-volunteers and after our series of events we hope to pack and send out 50,000 meals.”
Because so many students were interested in the series of events, there was a waiting list of volunteers.
The office holds similar events to provide students with opportunities for service, such as their annual Treats for Troops drive that raises awareness about veterans and homelessness. In addition, they host an Oxfam Hunger Banquet where students organize a banquet at which guests receive meals based on tickets drawn on arrival distinguishing their high-, middle-, or low- income tier.
Allie Perodeau, Coordinator of Community Outreach, had worked on Stop Hunger Now at her previous institution and thought it was an important service project to bring to John Jay.
“I think it’s easy to take the food on your table for granted, and it’s important for students to think about the people who do not have access to food. The event really connects with students because they get to work together to fulfill a quantifiable goal of packaging 10,000 meals. Being able to see the results of their hard work leaves the students with a sense of accomplishment. They also have a lot of fun during the event itself, so they see that you can have fun and make a difference in your community at the same time.”
Dev Sharma, who is a senior and a Police Studies major pursuing his bachelor of science degree said he has always perceived volunteer activities as opportunities to give back.
“I do it solely because I know this little bit of help can go a long way for an individual or a group of people. I have attended previous events through the Office of Community Outreach and I like what they do, the students involved as well as the coordinators and assistants of that office.”
Sharma signed up for the event because his grandparents and parents encouraged him to participate in service work.
“I grew up with the mentality that someone else always has it worse than you do,” said Sharma.
Sharma is also a member of Team Civility, a Peer Ambassador, and a member of Student Council.
Dimo Koutsogiannopoulos is a junior with a Criminal Justice major.. He said he participated in the Stop Hunger Now event because hunger is a global crisis that he would like to see reversed or at least greatly mitigated in his lifetime.
“Growing up as a first generation American, my family told stories from Greece during World War II where they were not able to eat for days. They struggled for a long time until they were saved by people in programs like the Stop Hunger campaign,” said Koutsogiannopoulos.
“Service is important to me to because if I can make someone’s day better it is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Koutsogiannopoulos has also participated in other community service events. He is a member of Alpha Phi Delta Fraternity and the head of its philanthropic events. They participated in City Harvest campaigns raising over 2,300 dollars for both breast cancer and Alzheimer’s research.
The Office of Community Outreach and Service reports that in the feedback they received, students conveyed a passion for cooperating to reach a shared goal and they enjoyed meeting new people. Perodeau said that 100 percent of students who participated in the Stop Hunger Now event said they would love to participate in another Stop Hunger Event and that 96 percent said the event enhanced their interest in participating in future community service events.
Walsh says hunger is an issue that can be fixed. As a planet there is enough food. We throw away 40 percent of food we do not use.
“The beauty of John Jay students is that they want to do this work, so it’s important for us to offer the programs and give them service opportunities. And the students want it, they want to help,” said Walsh.