*This story was featured on HCMediaOnline on November 19.
The Hastings community and Hastings College initiative for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW) was successful for the 12th straight year. The 2015 HHAW milestones included 75,600 meals packed on Friday, Nov. 13 and 2,750 sandwiches packed on Tuesday, Nov. 17 and 2,500 sack lunches on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
This year’s lineup of events included: Kids Against Hunger meal packing on Friday, Nov. 13; Resource Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, Nov. 14; Mario Kart Obstacle Course with Food4Thought on Sunday, Nov. 15; Open Table sandwich making on Tuesday, Nov. 17; HHAW-focused chapel service and Open Table sack lunch packing on Wednesday, Nov 18.
This lineup of events was similar to the events of past years, with the exception of the Resource Scavenger Hunt and Mario Kart Obstacle Course, which were new in 2015.
The efforts for HHAW in Hastings are unique because they provide food for both families across the world and in the local community.
“The meals we’re packing today [Nov. 13] will be going to the Philippines and are made of rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and a vitamin/mineral powder. The Open Table sack lunches all stay in Hastings,” Hastings College HHAW planning committee chair Nicole Delphia said. “The Open Table program is run through Catholic Social Services, and the sandwiches are handed out in downtown Hastings. It’s no questions asked to anyone that walks through the door and asks for a free lunch.
The Hastings branch of Kids Against Hunger specifically looks forward to this event each year because of the level of involvement from Hastings College students. This involvement is something that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“We look forward to this event with Hastings College. The students plan the event as a part of HHAW, and we bring in the supplies,” Kids Against Hunger event coordinator and board member Pastor Renee Johnson said. “Essentially, it is a student-run project, and at Kids Against Hunger we get to feed 75,000 people through our partnership with Hastings College.”
Aside from the actual meals that are packed, another important aspect of HHAW are the educational events. These events aim to educate the community on the impact that hunger and homelessness have on the local community.
“I think it’s really important because students don’t always realize how big of an issue it is, even in our community, and how many people are facing hunger and homelessness, “ Delphia said. “So its important to raise awareness for that to make people aware of that and make opportunities for them to get involved and do something about it.”
Hastings College has done just that. Each year turnout has increased, and it shows with the amount of meals being packed.
“Our goal is to pack 75,000 meals. We’ve proven we can pack that many because we packed 80,000 last year,” Delphia said. “It’s really just a matter of if we get the same turnout and support from the college community this year.”
The continued volunteer turnout and support for HHAW is something Johnson believes makes Hastings College special.
“My favorite part of the event—other than that we’re feeding so many hungry children and families across the world—is watching the HC students respond to this,” Johnson said. “The students that run the event are outstanding, the students that spend their time [volunteering], the faculty that have their classes come, it’s just an extra special event for us to watch.”
“We [the people of Nebraska] have these generous hearts and hands, and people respond when they know there is a need, “ Johnson said. “We’ve been able to actually help people around the world and around the corner. It makes a huge difference in the world.”