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Students hungry to help end poverty




Fourteen percent of Ellis County is living in poverty, and Fort Hays State University is trying to help.

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Fourteen percent of Ellis County is living in poverty, and Fort Hays State University is trying to help.

FHSU hosted a student forum Wednesday dedicated to raising awareness about food and hunger issues. Students prepared presentations and videos with information about the local, national and international hunger crises.

"We all know hunger is an ongoing challenge facing many Americans each day," said Interim Provost Chris Crawford. "It faces many of our college students. We've taken great steps to alleviate some of the problem, but policy discussion is not enough. We need grassroots action on this issue."

Eight student groups gave presentations, while four groups showed videos. Each presentation was less than 10 minutes.

"We sent out an email asking instructors if they wanted to incorporate the (food and hunger forum) in their classes," said Jean Gleichsner, associate professor of agriculture. "Three classes signed up, and we also put out a general call to students to see if they were interested in presenting general information about hunger issues."

The majority of students presenting were part of one of the classes, but students from the Center for Civic Leadership also gave a presentation.

"The faculty members are using their courses as a way to bring light to the issue of hunger," Gleichsner said.

All students who participated received a Starbucks gift card.

According to the Census Bureau in 2012, 15 percent of the U.S. population was living in poverty. That is 2.5 percent higher than the previous year. Currently, 46.5 million people are living in poverty.

Internationally, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty, the United Nations Children's Fund reported.

Holly Weiss, a senior member of the CCL team, experienced poverty firsthand while working with children in El Salvador.

"Children wanted to go to school because it meant a balanced meal," she said. "Parents would freak out if their child got kicked out of school because it meant he or she wouldn't get a balanced meal. Education not only helped students achieve more, but it was the only way to proper nutrition."

Senior Michael Herber explained the various ways Ellis County is aiding locals below the poverty level.

CCL and the non-profit Numana Inc. hosts the annual SWIPE Out Hunger food packaging event each fall. The statewide event engages universities in fighting global hunger by packaging bulk-food products.

The event began in 2011, and Herber said more than 200,000 meals have been packaged so far.

St. Joseph Catholic Church, 210 W. 13th, hosts a food pantry from 9 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturday of each month.

"Hunger is a big problem in our country and local community," Herber said. "We have many ways to deal with it, but we need to find a way that works, stick with it and conserve."

For more information on the various hunger projects, contact the CCL at ccl@fhsu.edu.