April 17 – 23 was Fight Childhood Hunger Week, which is a time when we try to raise awareness surrounding childhood hunger throughout the state of Montana. In particular, Wednesday April 19th was Wear Orange Wednesday, when hundreds of professionals, community members, and students across the state wore orange clothing, took photos of themselves, and posted it on social media to show their support for ending childhood hunger. We were quite busy in Helena as well. While some members of the YMCA’s NCCC team helped to canvass businesses and encourage participation, others assisted in using the week to solicit volunteers for the summer meal program.
My biggest project for Fight Childhood Hunger Week was facilitating a series of poverty simulations, with seventh grade students at Helena Middle School. In these simulations, students discussed hunger, poverty, and the role that food plays in our lives. They then did a role-playing exercise, where they received a profile to read over. The profiles depicted the lives of individuals who are struggling financially due to difficult, yet common circumstances, such as single motherhood, working multiple low-paying jobs, or not having health insurance. Students then had to fill out budget sheets, indicating what their income and expenses are, and ultimately calculate how much money was leftover for food. Most students did not have much leftover, so they were encouraged to visit the food pantry and the Office of Public Assistance ‘stations’ to get help. They then pooled their resources to try to purchase one full day’s worth of food for themselves and their families. The exercise was followed by a discussion about hunger, the resources that are available to people, and the limitations of these resources, along with greater societal issues including the price of healthy food, and the physical access to healthy foods in different communities.
It is my hope that students left the exercise equipped with a little more knowledge as to why hunger exists, what it looks like, and how it might impact families in Helena so that they can advocate for themselves and others as they grow into adulthood.