No one should have to worry about whether they will have food on their plate or a roof over their head, but the reality is that hunger and homelessness are widespread problems that affect far too many people.
In the United States:
Hunger and homelessness issues are pervasive and universal human rights issues. These issues are cyclical in nature, and they are at war with the structural systems and dynamics that perpetuate them and create an uphill battle to resolution. The global and local hunger statistics are alarming and disturbing, and world hunger is only rising in light of COVID-19’s drastic impact on communities that were already submerged in poverty and resource scarcity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the poverty rate, with the poverty rate reaching a high of 17.3 percent in August. The evidence also shows that our college students are experiencing more food insecurity and homelessness than pre-pandemic, and the resources to combat these crises are lacking. A national survey showed that nearly 3 in 5 students were experiencing basic needs insecurity, and that 44% and 38% of students at two year-institutions and four-year institutions, respectively, were affected by food insecurity. This survey also shows that 15% of students at four-year institutions and 11% of students at two-year institutions were experiencing homelessness due to the pandemic. According to a 2019 Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, in Connecticut, 1 in 8 people face hunger, the food insecurity rate for Connecticut is 12%, and the annual food budget shortfall is $248,587,000.
These statistics might be unnerving, but they are not permanent; the evidence demonstrates a need for activism. We aim to address the reality that hunger and homelessness are widespread problems that affect our country, local communities, and campus.
On-Campus: College campuses are not immune. In a survey cited by the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which included 43,000 student respondents from over 60 community colleges and 4-year colleges/universities, 36% of students reported experiencing food insecurity in the last thirty days. A nationwide study done by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice corroborates this statistic, finding that 41% of four-year university students who responded to the survey were food insecure in the summer of 2019.
Worldwide: While there has been slow but steady progress over the past thirty years, there are still 795 million people – or one in nine people in the world – who do not have enough to eat. 896 million people in developing countries live on $1.90 a day or less. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to increase the amount of people in extreme poverty by 88-115 million, with the total reaching 150 million by 2021.
Our Intersectional Lens: Hunger and homelessness are symptoms of a complex cycle of poverty, often sustained by systemic racism and other forms of hate. From the discriminatory housing practices of the mid-1900s to modern laws that criminalize homelessness, our campaign seeks to address, respond to, and take action against systems that target vulnerable populations. The intersectionality of hunger and homelessness begs advocates to ask why, for instance, of the 3.5 million people that experience homelessness in the United States, 42% are African American and 20% are Hispanic; why 80% of homeless single parents with children are female; why 20-40% of the homeless youth population identify as LGBTQ; and why 30% of the homeless population have a mental disability.
As college students, and especially as members of a global society that is experiencing intensified hardship during the pandemic, we have an obligation to continue thoughtful advocacy through service and education.
In the Spring of 2021, Hunger & Homelessness has worked with the UConn Dean of Students Office and UConn Community Outreach, and these relationships are proof of our dedication to expanding our networks and increasing the number of profound connections we have with our community. We have developed an active and resourceful website to connect with students and the community, and this website will eventually be recommended for syllabi across campus so that students can access the food insecurity resources available to them. The H&H website has been a highly successful project, receiving praise from professors and organization leaders, and we want to continue to expand our nutritional, off-campus, on-campus, and research resources by using the website as a database platform. The Hunger & Homelessness Campaign attacks issues that are at the forefront of political debate and advocacy, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are confident that the campaign will continue to receive widespread support across the community as it reaches new audiences.
Hunger at UConn
- Designed a website to provide resources surrounding food and home insecurity
- Volunteered at Covenant Soup Kitchen and the Windham Region No Freeze Shelter
- Hosted awareness-based and educational panels, movie screenings, and other events during Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week
- Worked to help the UConn Dean of Students Office and Office of Student Affairs to distribute a food insecurity survey
- Helped design and implement the 2019 in-person and 2020 virtual models of Husky Market in collaboration with USG, Minority Health Matters, and the UConn Nutrition Club
- Created voter toolkits in English and Spanish with UConnPIRG’s New Voters Project for the Windham Region No Freeze Shelter to help individuals experiencing homelessness exercise their right to vote in the 2020 Presidential Elections
- Took legislative action to lobby for HB 5013, the house bill that expands SNAP eligibility to college students
- Ran a successful donation drive in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, Phi Sigma Pi Fraternity, PERIOD @ UConn, and Community Outreach in which we provided 23 blankets, 13 sweatpants, 12 sweatshirts, 20 deodorant sticks, packs of underwear, menstrual products, lightly used clothing from on-campus donations, paper towels, shoes, and cash donations to the Windham Region No Freeze Shelter
- Development and expansion of the Husky Market program with USG’s Food Insecurity Task Force, Minority Health Matters, and the UConn Nutrition Club, in which UConnPIRG has committed $20,000 to expand the length and reach of the program
- Work with the President’s Commitment to Community Initiative with UConnPIRG’s Save the Earth campaign in their mission to “reduce bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination and to foster respect and understanding among the UConn community” through events focused on sustainability and food accessibility
- Develop collaborative initiatives to financially and holistically support UConn organizations specializing in poverty relief
- Implement service projects in collaboration with Covenant Soup Kitchen and the Windham Region No Freeze Shelter
- Prepare for a virtual Pandemic Relief Lobby Day during the 2021 spring legislative session, which is expected to include pandemic relief bills concerning SNAP, mortgage and rent forgiveness, and/or other forms of aid central to the wellbeing of UConn students and CT residents
- Enhance the accessibility and quality of the H&H Website to better serve food and home insecure students
- Create PIRG-wide care packages and merchandise for UConn students
To learn more about our initiatives, the resources available at UConn, and ways to use your student power, please visit the frequently updated H&H Website