Helping the Hungry

In the midst of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, TCU stood up among the rest of the world to fight hunger. In 1982, three faculty and staff members launched Hunger Week. Twenty-five years later, the Heal Hunger Campaign is trying to bring back the old through new methods.Hunger response was a global phenomenon that everyone wanted to be a part of, said Andrew Fort, a religion professor and one of the pioneers of Hunger Week.

In 1985, The Associated Press reported on two hunger relief concerts in London and Philadelphia called Live Aid, which featured rock stars such as Mick Jagger, The Who and Duran Duran. It was organized by Band Aid, the British rock collaboration group whose song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” began a wave for hunger relief charity, according to the article.

“It was the temper of the time,” Fort said.

Fort said he became engaged in the issue because The Hunger Project, an organization dedicated to the eradication of hunger, asserted that hunger was an issue of the lack of human will, not a lack of resources. He said when he researched the issue on his own, he saw the organization’s assertion was true.

“People don’t care enough,” Fort said.

In its initial years, Hunger Week took place in the fall, Fort said. Students brought canned food to football games, and on-campus organizations competed for points earned through participation in Hunger Week events. Hundreds of people attended the Hunger Banquet, and, in 1985, ABC covered the event, Fort said.

The hype didn’t end there. The predecessor of National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness awarded TCU for having the best university hunger response nationally in 1986. The university used to formally introduce Hunger Week to incoming students during orientation, Fort said.

“The university bragged that we won a national award,” Fort said. “It was very satisfying.”

But Hunger Week is not what it used to be anymore. The hype simmered, and although three to four students would try to revive it, it would eventually burn out, Fort said. Hunger response was no longer the temper of the moment.

Also, people have a different relationship with volunteering today, Fort said. He pointed out community service is almost a required field for high school seniors to have experience in when applying for colleges.

“It’s professionalism and not inspiration,” Fort said.

Fort said he has been involved with Hunger Week in some way during each of the 25 years of its existence.

Although the enthusiasm has declined since the first few years Hunger Week took place, there is still hope for hunger response at the university.

This year is the first year for Heal Hunger Campaign, which was launched to make hunger response a yearlong venture as opposed to a one-week hype, said the Rev. Angela Kaufman, the university minister and sponsor of Heal Hunger Campaign.

“We were creating a myth that we could tell everybody everything they need to know about hunger and hunger relief in five days,” Kaufman said.

Kelly Rand, the coordinator of Hunger Week, said she wanted to “build up the fire” throughout the year so that Hunger Week would be the climax when people become passionate about the cause.

Kaufman said, although the Heal Hunger Campaign is an organization, it serves more like a network. She said the campaign should be a place where members of the university can go with ideas so they may make them reality.

“It’s important year-round because people are hungry year-round,” Kaufman said.

She said educating the community throughout the year would help people understand that the issue is more complex than simply “dropping off some cans in a box in the middle of spring.”

Kaufman said this year, the student leaders involved reached out for more involvement from university organizations. Rand, a junior social work and religion major, said many organizations – Greek and non-Greek – are either participating in events as teams or using the opportunity to set up tables to publicize their own causes.

“In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Hunger Week brought people from every corner of the university together,” she said.

Kaufman said she attended TCU as an undergraduate from 1991 to 1995 and was involved with Hunger Week.

Although Hunger Week has manifested itself in a variety of ways in the past 25 years, some aspects have stayed consistent: the purpose and goals. They are to educate, raise funds and encourage action, Kaufman said.

She said she hopes students will walk away from the Hunger Week table after donating canned food or money thinking about their next step – making the donation the beginning, not the end.

Rand said she hopes the total funds raised this year will surpass last year’s Hunger Week donations of $31,000.

Kaufman said she hopes students will realize it is possible for everybody in the world to be fed.

“It’s not a pipe dream,” she said. “It’s not unreachable.