Rutgers Against Hunger provides meals to students, local community
Rutgers University is not an anomaly in the face of starvation in the United States. “There is this joke, ‘oh the starving college student who goes to things for free food.’ It is not a joke at all. It is very serious. And it is very real,” said Lauren Errickson, who oversees the Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH) initiative.
RAH was established in 2008 to deal with hunger within the Rutgers community.
The intiative partners with Rutgers Athletics to organize a series of food and donation drives. RAH is included in the weekly athletic promotional emails sent to alumni, students, faculty and staff.
This year RAH did its first collection at a volleyball game in hopes that, in the spring semester, it will receive donations at both women’s and men’s basketball games as well as wrestling matches. Every year at Rutgers’ annual homecoming football game, RAH organizes a donations' drive with the help of the Student-Organized Rutgers Against Hunger (SO RAH).
SO RAH Treasurer Janelle Taliaferro, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, said the organization was established in 2011 as a student-involved extension of RAH, which is comprised of Rutgers faculty, alumni and staff.
The two organizations “work together toward the common goal of trying to alleviate hunger within New Brunswick and the local New Jersey communities,” Taliaferro said.
Currently RAH is working on its Adopt-A-Family program. Errickson said the program partners with University sponsors to help families in need. RAH finds the families through social service agencies. Each agency has somewhere between 3 to 40 families working with them. It then finds sponsors who would like to buy food, gifts and clothing for those families during the holiday season.
“One time through Adopt-A-Family we collected donations for a family here in New Brunswick. The daughter of the family was really excited about Rutgers and her goal was to go to Rutgers some day. Some of the things she wanted were Rutgers t-shirts and Rutgers hats,” said Errickson.
Monday, Dec. 3 was the first day of deliveries for the program. The program will end its deliveries on Dec. 19.
Both SO RAH and RAH partner with the Rutgers University Student Food Pantry located on 39 Union St. in New Brunswick. The food pantry opened in Fall 2016, in light of the recognition of hunger on college campuses.
Anyone with a student ID can go to the food pantry and access dry goods, she said. The pantry is run by a combination of volunteers and part-time staff. Students can stop by the pantry on the weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Errickson is also the senior program coordinator of New Brunswick Community Farmers Market. She does a collaboration between RAH and the farmers market.
“In the summer, students who go to the pantry can get all of their dry goods that they stock at the pantry, but they also get vouchers called ‘market bucks’ which they can then bring to the farmers market and use to buy foods and vegetables of their choice. The choice model is really nice because students can then get what they like, and they are going to be more likely to eat the food if they can actually get things that they want,” Errickson said.
Errickson said RAH also collects monetary donations for places such as Elijah’s Promise, a New Brunswick soup kitchen.
“One of the things we do with them is that we can sometimes offer matching support for different groups here at the university. For example, if a sorority is holding a food and monetary donation drive for Elijah’s Promise, we can sometimes match donations that are raised,” Errickson said.