This Wednesday, WesFRESH and Housing and Hunger, formerly Habitat for Humanity, collaborated to organize Food for All, a fundraising and awareness event for End Hunger Connecticut. About 300 students came to the event to sample food from various Middletown restaurants, raising nearly $2,000—and forcing the student organizers to close the doors earlier than expected because the food disappeared so quickly.
“Haley [Baron] and I began working with Dawn Crayco from End Hunger Connecticut to discuss how Wesleyan could help with their advocacy work,” said Sophie Ackoff ’11, co-founder of WesFRESH, an organization dedicated to raising food consciousness by examining environmental, political, social, and ethical impacts of what we eat. “We got the idea of Food for All from the national ‘Taste of the Nation’ events which are similar events on a city-wide scale. We thought it would be worthwhile to have a smaller scale event that would engage Wesleyan students with an organization that is fighting hunger in the communities we are a part of.”
The event was so well-attended that some students were actually turned away more than an hour before the scheduled end-time of 8:30 p.m. as food began to run out. The organizers have offered refunds to the eight students who pre-ordered tickets but were not able to sample the food.
“Everyone who I talked to said that it was a huge success, and the only problem was that we didn’t have enough food,” said Haley Baron ’12, officer of Housing and Hunger. “We weren’t expecting that many people, and one big issue was that although we told the restaurants to bring enough for about 40 to 50 people, about half of them didn’t give enough. Hopefully if we do this again, we can learn from our mistakes.”
To get the local community involved and attract students to the event, a sampling of food was provided by Middletown restaurants such as Osaka, Pattie Palace, Tschudin Chocolates, It’s Only Natural, and Typhoon, as well as a few program houses and individual students. Student bands The Cinderblocks and The Church Street Revue provided music, and End Hunger Connecticut’s Executive Director Lucy Nolan spoke to the group about hunger and the organization’s programs.
Nolan’s speech drove home the idea that hunger is not an abstract, foreign issue. Scattered around the tables were facts that emphasized the point of her talk—for example, 25 percent of children live in food insecure households, 10 percent of all children in Connecticut live in poverty, and Connecticut ranked last in the nation for number of schools with a school breakfast program.
Mannon LeFevre ’14 said that she wasn’t originally a part of either group, but after she heard about this event, she decided she wanted to get involved.
“I thought it was a really great cause,” LeFevre said. “I think the thing is people don’t usually associate hunger with where we are, so it usually doesn’t come across as being a local issue. Wesleyan students can get involved with fighting hunger way more easily than they think they can, right around Middletown and Connecticut. It’s a really big issue, and people don’t really seem to know about it.”
Baron was hopeful that the message of the event would get across to other students.
“Obviously I would love Food for All to raise awareness about issues of hunger in Middletown and Connecticut, because I don’t think people really realize there are hundreds of thousands of people who go hungry every day in Connecticut,” Baron said. “Connecticut has the largest wealth gap between the rich and the poor, and as Wesleyan students we don’t realize that. We shouldn’t go about our days without really understanding that.”
Although there is no chapter of End Hunger in Connecticut at the University, both WesFRESH and Housing and Hunger believe they share a common goal with this organization, which aims to eliminate hunger in the state through advocacy, outreach, and education.
“I reached out to End Hunger Connecticut because I think it’s important for WesFRESH to get involved in anti-hunger activism as well as local, sustainable food activism, since both are essential aspects of the food movement,” Ackoff said.
Considering the success of the event, Baron expressed hope that it could be repeated in future years.
“I think this would be cool if it became an annual event,” Baron said. “People often forget when doing community service that you can’t just give food or give clothes or give products, you really have to help groups and organizations that are doing policy work and lobbying at the state level, because otherwise change will never happen. You can’t just put a band-aid on a wound, which is how people explain the need for indirect service.”