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Anti-hunger campaign continues

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, September 12, 2011

With copious amounts of food in the dining halls and around campus, it’s easy to forget that just a few miles away on the west side of South Bend there is an identified food desert.

Notre Dame’s eND Hunger Campaign, initiated by former student body president Catherine Soler and vice president Andrew Bell last year, seeks to engage Notre Dame students and faculty in the challenge of food scarcity in South Bend.

“I think it’s really important because a lot of times we focus on efforts that extend outside of South Bend, changing the world,” junior Catherine Flatley, subcommittee coordinator of the West Side Food Security Council, said. “If you look at statistics, the hunger issues in Indiana, and South Bend in particular, are astronomical.”

Potential actions for the campaign include initiating a food cooperative, advocating for a grocery store and coordinating local farmers with corner stores to market fresh produce, according to the student government website.

Senior Hallie Brewster, who is the student liaison to the West Side Food Security Council, said providing more healthy and affordable options in the West Side is the campaign’s main goal. She said food options include mostly fast food or just small corner stores in the area.

“In the long run, many years down the road, we’d love to have [the campaign] expand to many areas of St. Joseph’s County,” she said.

Brewster said student representatives meet monthly with a coalition of about 20 community leaders who are fighting hunger locally to discuss South Bend’s food infrastructure.

Brewster and Flatley attend these monthly meetings along with sophomore Greg Yungpun, student director of the eND Hunger student council.

Flatley said the eND Hunger campaign has two major long-term goals.

“To kind of change the way in which Notre Dame interacts with the South Bend Community, to really build a relationship and encourage the efforts of all the community members,” she said. “Also, to promote the long-term [food] security on the West Side.”

Brewster said a main objective for the fall semester is to assist the Urban Garden Market, a farmer’s market located in the West Side.

“We’re really going to focus our efforts on expanding what they’re doing and trying to advertise for them so they can stay in business and provide this needed resource,” she said.

Flatley said the market has been operating for awhile, but the campaign strives to make it sustainable for the long-term.

Brewster said educating students on what the community’s needs are, and how students can help meet those needs, is another major goal.

Student service in the community helps establish trust and is also enormously beneficial to students, Brewster said.

“I think it would be really beneficial for the students as well, not only just getting to know new people [and] getting to know the community they’re living in, [but] personally just self fulfillment,” she said.

Brewster said students can help to end hunger in the area, even in small ways.

“We’re trying to organize a few weekly groups to go and help at some of the markets downtown,” she said. “That’s something that somebody could do for even an hour once a week.”

Flatley said student government listens to the goals articulated by the community, working together in conjunction with the community instead of pushing only their own initiatives.

“We have this opportunity as students to work directly with the people we technically should be in community with, and help them achieve their goals,” Flatley said.