Despite the seemingly up-and-down nature of the country's economy, the United States remains one of the wealthiest nations in the world, generating a gross domestic product of $57,293 and a net worth of $10,374,030.
Yet, hunger insecurities continue to affect nearly 20 percent of American youth. Statistics show that 1 in 5 Pennsylvanian children live in a home whose income is below the poverty line. In the Slippery Rock Area School District alone, approximately 40 children and their families struggle to find their next meal.
Slippery Rock University's Student Nonprofit Alliance, in response to this problem, hosted its annual Hunger Banquet Nov. 13 to raise awareness and donations as part of its "IZE on Homelessness" week. The activities scheduled from Nov. 6-14 allowed students to "realIZE the issue, empathIZE with those affected and mobilIZE to break the cycle," organizers said.
All proceeds from the event were donated to the Slippery Rock Area School District Weekend Food Program, which supplies approximately 40 students - ages 5 to 14 - with bags of groceries each Friday during the school year.
"When you think of hunger, you normally think of third world countries, but it affects people right here in Butler County," said MacKenzie King, a dual sport management and philanthropy and nonprofit management major from New Castle.
"That's what we are hoping to make people understand through this dinner. Hunger is an issue not only in developing countries, but also in our own backyard," King said.
In addition to a buffet meal, attendees had the opportunity to listen to guest speaker Alfonzo Angelucci, Slippery Rock Area School District superintendent, discuss the district's food program and students in need.
"What's so special about having (Angelucci) speak at our banquet is that he sees these children on a daily basis and knows what they are going through, that if it wasn't for the district's help, they might not have a meal when they go home," said King. "That's our ultimate goal in hosting this event: to help more children and their families have access to the best quality food possible."
The 2016 banquet raised $1,700, which provided approximately 243 weekend meals to the district's program.
In addition to the hunger banquet, the "IZE on homelessness" campaign also featured a Cardboard Village for a 24-hour period Nov. 8 in the Quad. Various student clubs and organizations were invited to assemble a cardboard house and live in it for that period so that students experience "a taste of what round-the-clock homelessness is like."
"It will be cold and it could rain, and everyone will be fighting for a burn barrel just to stay warm," said Nicole Weigle a dual communication public relations and philanthropy and nonprofit management major from East Palestine, Ohio. "But after 24 hours, students will be done. The homeless aren't.
"However, even with such a short event like this, the mission of IZE will be accomplished. We want to put as much pressure on the issue of homelessness this week so that people have to face it. They're forced to deal with this as a relevant community problem."
Other events staged in conjunction with the IZE campaign included:
- Storied Streets: A showing of the award-winning documentary that "tells the truth about America's homeless."
- Crafty IZE: "Crafty" stations for students to learn about the realities of homelessness while also having some fun. Students were invited to help the SNA make fleece blankets and create "blessing bags" for area homeless.
- IZE on the Quad & Homeless Rally: Information tables about and testimonials from those affected by homelessness.
- PB&J Caper: Students assembled a record number of PB&J sandwiches for Rock Catholic to distribute to area homeless through the Red Door Mission.
- Homelessness in America: SNA hosted a panel discussion with those who work with the area homeless population. Panel members include employees from the Homeless Children Initiative, and Butler and Allegheny County Human Services.