Rutgers Against Hunger Brings awareness to local needs
By: Megan Dougherty
The holiday seasons witnesses a lot of donations to local food pantries and food drive events. However, once the summer months come there is a sudden decrease in donations. The negative change in numbers can affect those who rely on food assistance services.According to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, there are 400,000 children who suffer from hunger in New Jersey. 25 percent of those children will continue on with the assisted food services after school ends. As a result, there is a higher reliance on food banks to provide food to families and children during the lull.
As a way to combat the decrease in donations, Rutgers Against Hunger will hold its fifth annual Strike Out Hunger Food Drive during the month of June. Strike Out Hunger is a baseball- themed food drive that is aligned with local minor league baseball teams, and the Rutgers community. This is one of the multiple events RAH holds throughout the year which aims to bring awareness and increase knowledge to the issue of huger throughout New Jersey.
“When most people think of hunger they sometimes think of it as being far away. What they don’t realize today is one in five children are hungry in New Jersey,” Julia Crimi said.
Crimi, program coordinator for Rutgers Against Hunger, said although it is important to donate during the holidays, children do not have access to weekly school feeding programs when school is out. That is what Strike Out Hunger Food Drive aims to combat by focusing on continuation of donations.
“During the summer there are children who are not getting fed as often, so we want to make sure we get others to donate so they know that food is an issue and it is important,” Julia Crimi said.
According to its website, RAH focuses its food drives and various events on “Activism and service to tackle hunger, stimulate research to assist those in need, and provide immediate relief through food drives and other events to raise money and collect food.” It is an initiative run by Rutgers students, staff, alumni and concerned members of the community.
The food drive will collect donations throughout the entire month and will transport the donations to various food pantries around New Jersey, Crimi said. Although there are not as many students on campus during the summer sessions, anyone from the Rutgers community is encouraged to donate. Those pantries include the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and the Rutgers School of Social Work’s program, “Transitions for Youth.”
RAH will be looking for non-perishable items that are high in protein, low in sodium, and various whole wheat options. It is important to include healthy items as well as indulgences because offering healthy options provides a wider variety of goods for those in need, Crimi said.
The Strike Out Hunger Food Drive is not the only event RAH holds during the year. On April 17 the organization held its annual “Pack a Bus” event, which raised 1,000 pounds in donations that were given to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Crimi said.
In addition, on June 16 RAH will partner with the Somerset Patriots baseball team in Bridgewater for a food drive, an event that has happened in the past. Last year, RAH received 250 pounds of food donations and Crimi said she believes this partnership is beneficial for raising awareness on hunger. It is a family-orientated event that she said is perfect for getting people involved with donating during the summer.
“It’s definitely successful and something we want to capitalize on. We are trying to get the word out and it is always something fun to do,” she said.
Crimi advocates for students volunteering for food drives in general because of what students can get out of the experience. Participating in a food drive in order to reduce hunger in New Jersey gives them a new perspective on their own lives, she said.
“When students volunteer for hunger related issues it really effects them and makes them thing twice about their food and how they use it. And how sometimes you can take for granted what you actually have,” Crimi said.