This holiday season, our afterschool programs are encouraging kids to give back. Our programs celebrated the Thanksgiving season by raising awareness about hunger and homelessness.
During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-23), the COMPASS program at P.S. 96 asked for an end to hunger and homelessness, not just in the community but nationwide. Throughout the week, kids watched videos and learned lessons on hunger, homelessness and philanthropy. They collected socks and canned food for a donation drive to help out, and they drew attention to the issue with an “X-OUT Homelessness” campaign. To raise awareness, students placed an “X” made of duct tape on their book bags, shirts or sweaters.
COMPASS program staff set an example of service by volunteering at the Masbia Soup Kitchen in Coney Island. They peeled, chopped and diced, preparing 480 pounds of vegetables that the soup kitchen will turn into delicious soups and dinner plates for the hungry.
At Queens United Middle School, 78 seventh-graders participated in an MS ExTRA service learning program that teaches kids about the problem of worldwide hunger. At a “hunger banquet,” each student was assigned to an income bracket and given a background story that fleshed out the details of their imaginary life across the globe: for instance, You are a person from Senegal who has three children and owns a farm.
To drive home the stark contrast of global inequality, the kids assigned as lowest-income sat on the floor and were given a bucket of rice and a bucket of water. The middle income group had vegetables, rice and water, while the highest income (also the smallest group) enjoyed chicken, rice, vegetables, soda—and also waiters who tended to their every need
The banquet prompted lively discussions about fairness, what we can do to make things more just, and how the lower income group could get the attention of the higher income group. Marissa Badgley, MS ExTRA program director, said the class talked about doing a public awareness campaign and making videos to raise awareness within the school and with their families.
“They talked a lot about how giving meals and working at food pantries is a way of raising awareness,” Marissa said—but they also decided giving food to people wasn’t enough, and we need to help people improve their situation in a more permanent way.
The hunger banquet lays the groundwork for the students’ service learning projects. The students will be brainstorming projects that help them have an impact on hunger and homeless, and teachers will help workshop and refine the projects they dream up.