UW Madison Students Hold Poverty Summit
During UW Madison's National Hunger and Homelessness Week, 25 people attend the third Poverty Summit hosted by WISPIRG's Hunger and Homelessness Campaign. Attendees heard from two knowledgeable speakers; one woman who works with a local law office that helps people under the poverty line with legal representation spoke about foreclosures and the truth about our unjust system, and the city ombudsman spoke about his job representing the communities an their complaints about the government. Both stressed that there are many unfair practices and predators that take advantage of members of our community who are economically vulnerable.
Takes a School to Feed a Community - Souper Contact: Rhodes College's Student-Run
After attending an annual conference of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness in the late 1980s, a group of Rhodes College students returned to Memphis with the resolve to make a meaningful impact on their community. A small group of undergraduates began their journey by assessing the needs of the city. The results were clear: Memphis needed Rhodes College to fill a gap in the local feeding program - Memphis needed a free meal for the hungry on Tuesday evenings.
The students then turned to the local religious community to ask for support. After months of building support and being persistent, the organizing committee convinced St. John's United Methodist Church to offer their facilities to use for food preparation and serving once a week.
Over the past fourteen years, students working with the Kinney Program for Community Service have expanded the program, often feeding 80 to 120 guests each week, every week of the year. This student-run program is supported by a meager budget of $100 a week, funding provided by the student government and the Bonner Foundation, which purchases items ranging from beef to bread to vegetables to pasta to fresh salads. Rhodes food services, local markets and churches occasionally donate food as well.
While many people in Memphis certainly need a free meal, participants realize the distinctiveness of Souper Contact is its community of friendship and fertile ground for collaborative action that is much more than a meal. Unlike traditional soup kitchens where guests line up at a buffet or soup line, Souper Contact provides guests with a restaurant-style meal. While seated at the tables, guests are served cold beverages (milk and lemonade), hot coffee and a full meal. This setup meets immediate needs for a well-balanced meal and provides an unusual opportunity for volunteers and guests to build friendships and to learn from one another.
These relationships reach beyond the church, as some of the regular guests speak on campus at events such as the "Faces of Homelessness Panel" during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Guests also visit academic classes and student organization meetings to offer their insights into the challenges of homelessness and share their own voice of advocacy for social change. It is through these visits to campus and their discussions with Rhodes students at Souper Contact that the guests consider themselves to be co-educators and advocates for change.