Open forum discusses ways to combat hunger in New Brunswick
10 New Brunswick based organizations met and discussed efforts to alleviate hunger in New Jersey
Local community members and organizers gathered during an event hosted by the Rutgers Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research to discuss hunger relief and food insecurity on Wednesday.
The event featured three guest speakers and 10 organizations focused on hunger relief. Speakers discussed the current state of food insecurity in New Jersey, local communities and organizations that are working to solve this issue and what members of the public can do to alleviate the crisis of hunger in America.
Jon Wogman, the director of the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program, said his work has helped hundreds of young Americans learn about combating hunger, promote racial equality and relieve poverty. He currently trains and mentors fellows in the program and holds workshops on these issues.
“There are both food-related reasons and non-food related reasons of why people lack food security ... ," said Cara Cuite, an assistant extension specialist in the Department of Human Ecology.
She has been a senior member of Meals on Wheels, and has worked to promote participation of senior citizens in food-aid programs and continues to find new ways to educate and support the community in terms of food security.
Cuite explained her project's focus on hunger in New Brunswick and how it affects residents. She works with Rutgers’ students, staff and outside research and community organizations to understand how people in New Brunswick get their food, how much is available to them and if they are getting enough of it, she said.
Her team has compiled and conducted research about food access, affordability, nutritional value and food safety. Most numbers point to an increase in residents struggling to get healthy food consistently due to a lack of availability, culturally appropriate food and affordability among other reasons, she said.
Lisanne Finston, former executive director of Elijah's Promise, said that in her decades of service, she has seen many Rutgers students and personnel willing to help the community, and that the Collaborative Center is the link between Rutgers and the rest of the community.
“What's really important for people to think about is really understanding the issue and considering how to engage the issue of hunger in a way that both enables students to connect in a meaningful way with the issue but also to understand how to engage the issue towards solution,” Finston said.
After speakers gave their presentations, attendees were allowed to visit the informational booths which featured organizations such as Meals on Wheels, the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market and Elijah's Promise.
The Collaborative Center reports to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and is overseen by the University’s Vice Chancellor, said Amy Michael, associate director of the center. Its mission is to create and maintain community partnerships so that students can engage in community-based learning opportunities.
"The Collaborative fosters campus-community partnerships where students do service connected to their academic work thereby putting theory into practice," Michael said.
It disseminates information about different opportunities, connects students with organizations that need volunteers and sets up programs and networks to help students find new methods of civic engagement, she said.
The Collaborative Center and its predecessors have been connecting Rutgers to the community since the 1990s, Michael said. This discussion is just one of many different ways it seeks to inform students about, and help them find, work in public areas of need.
“We are doing this event for students to know what food insecurity looks like in New Brunswick and who are the organizations working on that,” Michael said.