Off the Clock - HungerU Makes a Trip to the Midwest

Oct 16, 2015

Credit Emma Nicolas/ KBIA

  There are more than 795 million people hungry globally according to the Global Food Security Index. HungerU is trying to change that. Its large tour bus treks from campus to campus getting college students involved in the fight to stop hunger.

HungerU’s huge blue and black trailer has visited more than 65 college campuses across the U.S. since its mission first started three years ago. This year will be the group’s seventh tour, and first time visiting the Midwest.

After setting up on a campus the group spends the next two days trying to reach as many people as possible. Its main effort comes in the form of a five question quiz which reveals facts about worldwide hunger.  

Once the quiz is completed HungerU donates a meal to a local organization, like Tiger Food Pantry at MU, in the name of the participant. The Farm Journal Foundation, the nonprofit behind the tour funds these meals, while HungerU’s primary goal is to provide students with ways to get involved specific to their campus.

First time crew member Brianna Marshall said it all depends on student’s responsiveness.

“It’s ideal to have people who are super engaged just because we have food index and things on our iPads that we can pull up and start a conversation with them,” Marshall said. “It’s also a great first step if someone just takes the challenge and donate a meal.”

Marshall said the ideal response does not always happen especially on a busy college campus.

“It’s all about timing some people will come back and say sorry I didn’t mean to brush you off earlier, but I’m free now,” Marshall said. “So you just have to be understanding of that.”

They travel in a crew of four members that are chosen from an application process that sometimes receives upwards of 100 applicants per tour. The current crew is made up of people from all over the U.S.

Fiona Coleman is one of them. Coleman initially graduated with a sports medicine degree from Merrimack College, but following graduation she traveled the world working for stay on organic farms. Coleman says she used what she learned about nutrition from her degree and began applying it to food security.

“I feel like I kind of found myself through just kind of giving up to expectations and going for what I was passionate about,” Coleman said.

Her next adventure following the HungerU tour will be working as a food security specialist for the Peace Corps in Zambia. The HungerU experience has helped many crew members find their next step, and Mallory Weber, the tour manager, said they hope to do this for all the students they meet.

“The amount of students that want to do something and want to be involved they just don’t know how or where to start,” Weber said. “We are able to find a way to connect them with any kind of way to get involved in whatever kind of capacity they are able to do so.”

She said the Farm Journal Foundation aims for it this tour to reach younger generations in hopes that increased awareness will get students more involved on their campus.

“Hunger is an issue and it’s not going to go away any time soon and it’s definitely not going to go away without a fight,” Weber said. “I think a lot of it came from the fact that we need to start doing something and a big part of HungerU is reaching out to Millennials.”  

This is Weber’s second tour and she said she is already beginning plans for the next one. HungerU will hit the road again next spring and take on the states of Iowa and Minnesota.