While poverty and hunger are often thought of as a Third World problem, for the tens of thousands of Erie residents reportedly living below the poverty line, these issues are a reality.
That’s why Service Learning and the Honors Program at Mercyhurst University are working together to combat hunger and poverty in the immediate area with Food Recovery and Stomp Out Poverty with Honors.
And, just in time for the holidays, both initiatives will benefit organizations that provide food to families not only on a daily basis, but specifically for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“At Mercyhurst University, we are aware of and concerned about poverty,” said Colin Hurley, director of Service Learning. “We want to give students a hands-on opportunity to combat poverty and make a positive difference through this new Food Recovery program and Honors initiative.”
With almost one third of all the food produced in the world — estimated at 1.3 billion tons — wasted annually, Food Recovery is an initiative to reduce food waste at the Erie campus.
In an agreement with Parkhurst Dining, the university’s primary dining and catering service, Food Recovery aims to salvage at least 2,000 pounds of food from Parkhurst-catered events during the 2013-14 academic year. Catering staff is trained to safely and properly preserve untouched, leftover food each week, with ’Hurst volunteers delivering the food to Erie City Mission.
“The need to fight hunger is greater than ever,” said Barbara Brown, director of operations at Erie City Mission. “We were thrilled and excited that Mercyhurst University wanted to partner with us. There will be a purpose for this food; it will not go to waste.”
Brown said that hundreds of Erie residents, many of whom are children, will potentially benefit from the program.
As part of the Honor Program’s Stomp Out Poverty campaign, students are holding a canned food drive with the help of Phi Eta Sigma (Mercyhurst freshmen honor society) and Bumble Bee Foods. The national brand has generously donated several dozen tuna kits to augment the students’ collection of nonperishables from a food drive going on now through Nov. 22. The students will give the food and help distribute it at the Bethany Outreach Center, 254 E. 10th St., which served 823 individuals with more than 16,000 pounds of food during October.
“Hunger is an ongoing issue wherever you are,” said Natasha Duncan, Ph.D., director of the Honors Program. “Students sometimes don’t realize the needs of the Erie community because they can be sheltered. One of our central values at Mercyhurst is global awareness. This doesn’t just mean reaching communities outside of the United States. It also means being aware of ways in which we can do our part in helping shape our communities at home and the Erie community in a positive way, too.”
Donation boxes for the food drive are located in Preston Hall, freshmen residence halls, Audrey Hirt Academic Center and Carolyn Herrmann Student Union.
In addition to the food drive, the Honors Program is emphasizing service with its students. Under the chosen theme of “Stomping out Poverty,” students are encouraged to volunteer with area organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Emmaus Soup Kitchen as well as help Mercyhurst social work students with the Global Gifts Fair slated for Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Mercyhurst.
PHOTO: Senior Bronte Seath displays the tuna kit donations from Bumble Bee Tuna.