UCI’s Third Annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
By Miguel Lopez
UCI participated in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week from Nov. 9th through Nov. 16th, their third year promoting the nation-wide initiative.
HHAW, founded in 1975 at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, is a yearly initiative that looks to highlight hunger and homelessness across the nation by holding service events, fundraising, hosting educational workshops, and advocating on behalf of the cause. The week kicked off on the 9th with a food drive at the Fresh Basic Needs Hub that continued through the 16th. In addition to the Fresh Hub, ICS and Engineering hosted a food drive on the 14th which rewarded participants with prizes, like an ICS t-shirt for donating 10 items.
The donated goods will go toward helping the 45% of UCI students who struggle with food insecurity. UCI students also had the opportunity to participate in two bagging service activities by making blessing bags and brown bag lunches, which were donated to local shelters. The bags included food items like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit cups, granola bars and chocolates. The service events culminated in a green bean picking event where students picked green beans which benefited a local soup kitchen.
Along with the service events and food drives, various events were held throughout the week to educate students on issues like child homelessness. This included a screening of the short film “Invisible Girl” that told the story of Jennifer Friend, CEO of Project Hope Alliance, and her struggle growing up in poverty and living in a motel. According to Project Hope Alliance, there are 28,000 homeless children in Orange County School Districts. The idea behind the title is revealed towards the end of the film, where after sharing her story, the “invisible girl” transforms into the visible girl, highlighting the importance of sharing these children’s stories and taking action.
As part of the initiative, Insight Magazine hosted a photo gallery exhibiting the faces of the people experiencing homelessness and hunger through their art display in Viewpoint Gallery. It sometimes challenges the public’s perception of a “day in the life” for a homeless person, and other times affirms them. Photographs of the raw reality of homelessness: dirty, cramped, and sad among paintings that argue for a deeper complexity, a people more than their situation. A photograph of a homeless man in crutches on a street littered with white plastic bags, framed by graffiti cover walls in the background. A man stares at the camera, lips parted, wearing what may be a tartan blanket or what once was a jacket embellished with strips of the same fabric. A couple sits outside their tent, the woman on an old beach chair and and the man on a red cooler, belongings and food on the floor and, on a small plastic folding table, what was once a bottle of clean Arrowhead water now contains brownish water filled with cigarette butts. Paintings juxtaposing the tents near Angels Stadium with people casually going about their lives: a girl runs cheerfully ahead of her sister, a woman walks her dog. A painting of a man’s face in blue and pink and yellow, vibrant. Another of a bearded man and his dog. Another of a smiling man wearing a green bicycle helmet and a reddish-brown shirt spelling out “U DA MAN.”
It’s no secret that Orange County has a homelessness issue. The homeless encampments near Angels Stadium, the various people living on the streets in Santa Ana, a shortage of shelters and other temporary housing, etc. The service events and education during HHAW will most certainly help those in need.