The 2012 Hunger Challenge was quietly organized by Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank and the Nanaimo News Bulletin earlier this year and co-ordinated to take place leading up to Hunger Awareness Week (May 7-11).
The idea was to ask volunteers to step out of their normal food routines and accept the limitations faced by regular food bank clients.
The hope is that asking people to experience first-hand the hunger challenges faced by so many in the community, and then sharing those experiences publicly, will help raise awareness of the issue.
“People can be generally aware, but in terms of the reality, the fact that there are people who have no food whatsoever, it’s not really connected for people who don’t find themselves in that situation,” said Peter Sinclair, Loaves and Fishes executive director.
Prior to the challenge, which ran April 22 until May 4 and involved four volunteers, Sinclair talked to food bank clients to get a better idea what food they had at home and their weekly food budgets.
That process itself was eye-opening for Sinclair, who is at the food bank daily working and talking with clients.
“For myself, interviewing clients, I was shocked,” he said. “That they were able to list off exactly what they had, without even thinking about it, was shocking. They knew exactly what was in their cupboards.”
That information was passed to the participants, who were asked to choose and follow a profile that most closely matched their situation.
Participants were also asked for a minimum $50 donation to cover the cost of the food and were instructed to access the food bank following all the regular rules – no special treatment.
With the first year complete, the goal is for the challenge to become an annual occurrence with increased publicity, involving more and more people, thus raising greater community awareness.
“There’s now four or five people out there talking about this and helping increase awareness,” Sinclair said. “If we can have 15, 20, 30 people doing it, we have that many more people speaking about hunger and the need in the community.
“It’s the conversations the people who’ve done it have with others that really makes a difference,” he added. “It’s not just a story in the paper, it’s not just a statistic – it’s the reality that hits home … that there’s people who do this 52 weeks a year.”
Interested in taking part in the Hunger Challenge next year? Please contact Mitch Wright, News Bulletin managing editor, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.