Lakers discuss ‘hunger and homelessness’

Shae Slaughter

While in college, there are many things that students can learn about outside of their academic classes, including issues that affect the world. The Community Service Learning Center at Grand Valley State University decided to target some of those issues through monthly discussion forums. The topic for November focuses on hunger and homelessness.

The CSLC started off the month with a discussion based in the Kirkhof Center lobby. Set up as a come-and-go style discussion, the goal was to get students talking about why people are hungry and to tie that in with the concern for homelessness.

“Basically we wanted students to be more involved in the community and be more aware of the issues going on in our community,” said Nikki Rakestraw, CSLC consultant.

According to a report by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness, there were 69,163 people listed as “literally homeless” in Michigan in 2015. The term “literally homeless” is used to describe people whose primary nighttime residence is somewhere that is not meant for human habitation.

The number of homeless people in Michigan directly ties in with those who experience hunger. According to Feed America, one in eight people and one in five children living in West Michigan or the Upper Peninsula is food insecure.

“We get so involved in our own lives we forget about underlying issues,” said Brianna Miranda, consultant to the CSLC. “We just want to spark that conversation.”

The goal of these discussions is not only to address the subject, but also to hear what people think about the topic. Though the CSLC isn’t recording student responses, they hope to gather some knowledge of how students view hunger and homelessness.

“A little bit is the education aspect,” Miranda said. “We aren’t keeping track of the feedback but we want students to be engaged.”

Miranda plans on holding these discussions weekly through November to give students multiple opportunities to address the topic of hunger. Homelessness was more specifically addressed during a video discussion Thursday, Nov. 10.

The CSLC also plans on furthering the discussion through an interactive event Thursday, Nov. 17 from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in the Holton-Hooker Living Center Multipurpose Room.

The CSLC plans on partnering with Oxfam, an advocacy group, to help show students about hunger and homelessness on a global level. Those in attendance will be split into groups based on one of three economic statuses and then they will be given the appropriate food that corresponds with their status.

“It’s something outside of your comfort zone,” Miranda said.

The CSLC hopes its demonstrations will help to encourage students to reach out to their community and see what they can do to help.

“We have a wide spectrum (of topics) just to make college students more aware and not just focusing on going to class and being social,” Rakestaw said.

The CSLC hopes to reach as many students as possible by putting their events in high-volume areas like the Kirkhof Center and living centers around campus.

“We really just want students to be thinking about these things and for it to be a conversation that you can have on campus,” Miranda said.