Hunger Action Month


The mission of the month-long campaign is to bring awareness to the nearly 49 million food insecure Americans

Turkey tater tot dish, jello cups with fruit and dessert bars on the surface just seem like a typical Midwestern meal, but in reality, it is a tool to help fight against food insecurity.

The Harvest Table, a hunger relief organization, is just one of the many places in the community helping to alleviate hunger and raise awareness about hunger in Brookings.

Organizations, such as the Harvest Table, the Brookings Backpack Program, the Brookings Food Pantry, Feeding Brookings and Feeding South Dakota are just a few places whose primary mission is to get food to individuals who don’t know when their next meal will be.

Hunger Action Month has the same mission. Every September, Feeding America sponsors a campaign with the goal to increase knowledge about the 49 million Americans who are food insecure, according to Feeding South Dakota.

According to Jennifer Strensaas, Feeding South Dakota, which is based out of Sioux Falls, is a member of the Feeding America Food Bank. Feeding South Dakota has handed out balloons, asked community members to plant an extra row in their garden and help put together movie nights in connection with Hunger Action Month. Their next project will be to pair with high school students and have them stand on street corners with posters advertising food insecurity statistics and the logo for Hunger Action Month.

“When you look out and you’re looking in the faces of people, you may not know that they are food insecure,” Strensaas said. “[S]o to be able to talk about hunger finding ways to mobilize our public and our communities to get involved  and with food donations, food drives, monetary donations that’s giving us the opportunity to help alleviate hunger in our areas.”

Feeding South Dakota works with “350 non-profit agencies in 66 counties” to give food to those in need. This year Feeding South Dakota is encouraging people to plant an extra row in their garden for the 40th anniversary and when the food is ready to be harvested to give the food to their local food pantry.

“I think it’s a great thing for everyone to get involved in, whether you’re a child or teenager or adult or senior,” Strensaas said. “It’s a very easy topic to understand and people shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.”

At SDSU, one way the campus community discusses hunger is through the Hunger Banquet, which is “an interactive, experiential learning opportunity that is designed to raise awareness on the issue of hunger,” said Tim Nichols, dean of the Fishback Honors College.

The Hunger Banquet will be held on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Volstorff Ballroom as part of the common read activities. When students arrive for the banquet, they get a card that gives them the identity of a random person and then they are seated based on their card.

“The other thing, the other element that I think is intended to have that impact is the assignment of characters… so you are this person, this is your identity whether that means you’re wealthy and living large or that means you don’t know what you’re going to have for dinner,” Nichols said. “Those characters are assigned at random and I think that’s an important message to because in many cases that’s how life works too. “

There are three dining options: first world, second world and third world. What the students get to eat is all dependent on which world they are seated in. The food options range from a cup of rice to a multi-course meal.

“This year with The Other Wes Moore’ we’re really looking at hunger issues as they apply particularly in urban America,” Nichols said. “We always want to make sure we are thinking about the issue broadly so that we do provide that global context for the conversation about hunger, but that we also think about it locally as well because there are hungry people in Brookings and it’s easy to forget.”

The goal of the event is to broaden the knowledge of the students who attend so that they become more sensitive to the subject of hunger. For people to attend, they are charged $2 and all of the proceeds go to the Harvest Table.

According to Vonda Kirkham, the coordinator of Harvest Table, their mission is to give a hot, no-cost meal to anyone in the community. The program was established in 2000.

Each week a group volunteers to make their own menu for what they will serve, buy the groceries, prepare, serve and clean-up. In addition to providing a hot meal, Harvest Table also has diapers and other grocery items.

Vonda said the only item they charge is diapers; one dollar for a package of diapers.

“I wish the community was aware of the people we see have needs; they think it is just a hidden problem,” Kirkham said. “We are fortunate in Brookings and we kind of don’t recognize that there are some that aren’t as fortunate.”