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Coalition reexamines Lunch Fast program

Steve Kerins | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It has been more than 30 years since the World Hunger Coalition (WHC) began to confront Notre Dame students with the stark realities of malnutrition in some of the poorest nations on earth.

Now, after watching participation slacken in its signature Wednesday Lunch Fast program, the Coalition is preparing to renew its commitments to feeding the hungry and raising awareness by encouraging student involvement in new ways.

“We do our best to fight hunger,” said the group’s president, junior Jessica Pillarella. “One of the best things about us is that we steer clear of the politics … I think anyone can agree that feeding the hungry is a good thing.”

The WHC’s primary activity on campus is the Wednesday Lunch Fast, in which students pledge to donate one meal per week from their meal plans. The money from the unused lunch is then given to the WHC, which forwards it to organizations dedicated to stamping out hunger.

“The Wednesday Lunch Fast, for a low semester, it brings in $8,000,” Pillarella said. “For a great semester we’ll bring in $2,000 a week, so it’s a great moneymaker … because we don’t have much overhead at all.”

The group was able to donate $7,184 to provide food for the hungry last semester, which it collected entirely from the lunch fast.

Pillarella said the specific organizations chosen to receive funds vary each year. This year, money will be donated to Oxfam and the South Bend Food Pantry.

The World Hunger Coalition can also choose to direct some of the funds raised from the Wednesday Lunch Fast to initiatives on campus combating world hunger.

“It’s nice because poverty is kind of a hot topic this year on campus,” Pillarella said.

Citing the program’s current enrollment of 280 students – down from 1,400 sign-ups in 2003 – faculty adviser E. Jane Doering stressed the group’s objective to renew interest in the program this semester.

“What I really do believe is that the Notre Dame student wants to participate in a way that will be effective [in alleviating hunger],” Doering said. “We’re hoping [declining participation] is due to not knowing, as opposed to not caring.”

Doering also emphasized the value of the Wednesday Lunch Fast as the starting point for further exploration of the roots and varied effects of world hunger.

“What I like about this program is that it’s not just giving money,” Doering said. “It’s a small sacrifice on the part of students [as well].”

Pillarella said that the World Hunger Coalition plans to broaden its involvement later in the semester.

“Right now, we’re focusing on sign-ups for the [Wednesday] Lunch Fast,” she said. “Later, we will be involved with the ND canned food drive and putting together Easter baskets through the South Bend Food Pantry.”

The World Hunger Coalition will have its next meeting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Center for Social Concerns Coffeehouse. To enroll in the Wednesday Lunch Fast, send your full name, e-mail address and ndID number to whc@nd.edu.