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Rutgers Against Hunger’s Food Collections Spark Curiosity, Raise Awareness at New Student Orientation
It was an unusual item on the "what to bring" list for student orientation: a can of non-perishable food to support Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH). Although incoming students may have had a thousand other things on their minds, most obliged and brought along a can, even if they didn’t fully understand why.
"Many of them think we’re collecting for world hunger and that we are sending the cans to Africa. They seem shocked when we tell them that hunger is a problem in their state," said Julie Sylvester, coordinator for RAH, the universitywide initiative that seeks to address the pervasive problem of hunger in New Jersey.
The effort to raise awareness among a brand-new cohort of first-year and transfer students is achieving its goals. Nearly 600 pounds of food have been collected each week during student orientation programs, which started in June, Sylvester said. The food is being donated to M.C.F.O.O.D.S. (Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services) and Hands of Hope of Edison.
Also, new students receive their first experience in community service, said Kristin Cothran, associate director of new student orientation.
"We wanted them to be aware of the hunger issue. This is the first step in being a part of the Rutgers community and giving back to the community outside of Rutgers," Cothran said.
Students spotted the RAH table piled with cans as they juggled their personal belongings en-route to checking into the Livingston Towers for their overnight stay. They handed their donation to Audrey Krum, a sophomore working with orientation, but often didn’t know why.
"I don’t know what RAH does," said incoming Rutgers Business School student Sulltane Cosaj of Monroe. "But it makes a difference if everyone brings a can."
Victoria Giorno, a new SAS student, was not surprised by the collection. "A lot of people are hungry," she said.
Sylvester said some students she meets are taking their new awareness a step further.
"They’re asking us, ‘How can I get involved?’ Everyone seems to want to be a part of RAH," Sylvester said.
Rutgers students have participated in such RAH activities as the Adopt-a-Family holiday project, the Great University Bake Sale and numerous student-led efforts to raise money or collect food.
They soon will have a chance to increase their involvement. This fall, a new student organization dedicated to the mission and activities of Rutgers Against Hunger will be established. New and continuing students will be invited to join and take leadership roles in Rutgers’ efforts to address hunger.
RAH was established in November 2008 by Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick to increase awareness and engage the Rutgers community in efforts to alleviate hunger and food insecurity in New Jersey and beyond. RAH sponsors or encourages such activities as food drives, fundraising events, civic engagement and volunteer projects, as well as research into the causes and solutions for these problems. RAH has raised $107,000 and collected more than 70 tons of food since its inception, with donations going to food banks and emergency food pantries across the state.
Media Contact: Sandra Lanman
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