Appalachian and the Community Together brings hunger and homelessness awareness to campus

Emily Broyles, Associate News Editor

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College students have homework to do, meetings to attend and sleep to get. Often, in the midst of these activities, the person standing on the side of the road with a sign reading “help me, homeless” goes ignored or unnoticed. 

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is a national week of advocacy that Appalachian and the Community Together hopes to voice loudly enough to break that mentality.

“Our intention with it in the Appalachian community is to help break the ‘campus bubble,’” said Kira Brisotti, education chair of the HHA Week committee for ACT. “We really just want to bring awareness about homelessness and hunger in our local community to students, because I feel like a lot of people don’t really think about it.”

Brisotti, a senior building sciences major, said most students see only see each other on and off-campus, not taking the community outside of App State into account.

Brisotti said it can be hard to see Watauga County’s 28.3% poverty rate because “you go around town, and it’s just students everywhere a lot of the time.”

 ACT’s approach to HHA Week aims to connect App State’s community with outside struggles through educational and advocation-based events, like presentations and a letter-writing campaign to government representatives advocating for affordable housing.

Brisotti said ACT’s HHA Week committee is building on each year to make it easier for student involvement.

Committee Chair of HHA Week, McCormick Grubb said after rebranding App State’s “Hunger Games” canned food drive, ACT wanted to add more structure to HHA Week to work closely with just one local nonprofit in comparison to past years’ many. This year it’s App Builds a Home.

“We call the nonprofits that ACT works with ‘community partners’ because we try to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the nonprofits we work with in Boone,” said Grubb, a senior sociology major. 

 App State students are working on App Builds a Home newest construction site while in return App Builds a Home and Habitat for Humanity help educate App State students on affordable housing, hunger and homelessness.

Food insecurity is another issue ACT’s HHA Week advocates for. According to a survey conducted in the 2017-18 academic year by App State history professor Jeffery Bortz, two in three App State students experience food insecurity. 

“I didn’t even know it was that big of a deal before I came here, and so I’m sure a lot of college students that are here don’t even know how important it is or what’s even going on,” said Kate Williams, advocacy chair for HHA Week. “You probably know people that are food insecure.” 

Allison Jennings, director of development for Watauga County Habitat for Humanity, said one way to solve food insecurity and homelessness is through affordable housing, which she said is caused by App State’s growth over the years. 

“We all see people that are standing on the street corner with the green and orange vests that are holding up the sign and saying ‘please help me,’” Jennings said. “We all see homelessness. App State students see them every day.” 

Jennings said that whether App State students can reach the community below the poverty line or not, they need to know people who face challenges in the Boone community everyday.

“(Students) need to know when they go to the grocery store and they may see a single mom standing in line embarrassingly pulling out her card for food nutrition services, food stamps,” Jennings said. “They need to know what the community is that they live in.”