Student Community Services’ (SCS) annual See the Need Week drew attention to the very serious hunger and homelessness issues worldwide and in San Luis Obispo. The week was filled with many different events, including speeches from experts, hunger demonstrations and meals at local shelters.
“Most people in San Luis Obispo are fairly affluent and don’t realize how much assistance the hungry and homeless really need or the many ways they can help the less fortunate,” said Tara Johnston, one of the director coordinators of SCS.
See the Need Week offered several opportunities to help, beginning on the weekend of Nov. 14-15 with food drives at local grocery stores like Scolari’s Market and Food 4 Less.
“We like to be very community-oriented and participate, and we really support Cal Poly’s efforts,” said Beth Hatchard, manager of the San Luis Obispo Food 4 Less.
Food and school supply drives were held on campus outside Campus Market and Village Market, offering students a more direct way to donate. The school supplies will be brought to New Orleans over winter break by members of Student Life & Leadership.
“I hope this week makes Cal Poly students step back and really think about how much they have and how much they spend without knowing it. I want them to be inspired to give something back to the community,” Johnston said.
The week also included several talks and speeches by experts on hunger and homelessness issues. On Monday, a hunger benefit dinner was held at Baja Sol. Political science professor Emmit Evans talked about worldwide hunger issues and the stark contrast between the lives of the wealthy and poor.
After the talk, a hunger demonstration was performed. The audience of about 30 was divided into four groups representing the four main income groups in the world, and each group of participants was served a meal based on the income and lifestyle of their world group. The groups were each given different meals, from steak and potatoes for the wealthiest group to rice and water for the poorest.
The demonstration clarified how little some people in the world have to live on and evoked many emotions from the participants.
Liberal studies junior Kaitlin McCormick, a member of the poorest group, said she felt jealous of the other groups.
“I kept thinking, ‘Why can’t I have all that?’” McCormick said.
On Tuesday, renowned author and social justice advocate Jonathan Kozol gave a speech in the University Union. He addressed a different aspect of hunger and homelessness by stressing the importance of education reform. Kozol believes that a solid and well-rounded education can lead students to be more sympathetic toward social justice issues. The speech touched many members of the audience, including graduate student Lillian Dennis, who is also a part of the credential program.
“I want to be a teacher, and it’s so gratifying to know that teachers are still considered to be so important to society,” she said.
The third part of See the Need Week was serving meals at local homeless shelters. On Wednesday morning, volunteers and SCS members went to the Prado Day Center to serve breakfast and spend time with the clients. Also, on Friday, another group of volunteers went to the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter to cook and serve dinner.
Shari Worthington, the director of Beyond Shelter, a program within SCS that deals directly with helping the homeless, said people should consider volunteering and donating beyond the holiday.
“This week is about reaching out to the homeless as well as the hungry, especially right around Thanksgiving. I think it’s great that people have reached out this week, but they should remember that homelessness goes beyond just this week – it’s always there and always in need of people willing to help.”