The Class of 2023 at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest took an in-depth look at the face of hunger during this fall’s sophomore retreat.
Community FoodBank of NJ Schools and Community Outreach Manager Diana Levy, LSW, pointed out that anyone can experience food insecurity, including someone who lives in a home in a suburban neighborhood, but may not have money to purchase enough food or medication. Levy explained that, since the pandemic took hold in the United States, approximately 40 percent of those being served by food banks have been impacted by COVID-19 related issues, including job loss.
AHA Campus Ministry arranged the retreat, and Harrington Park resident Mary Flahive, AHA Class of 2021, acted as a small group leader. Flahive is active with the Community FoodBank’s Teen Leadership Program, and spreads awareness through the Teen Hunger Forum for students from New Jersey schools. When the pandemic began to affect the United States, Flahive and the other CFBNJ teen leaders took to social media to raise thousands of dollars to keep the food bank stocked.
“It is so important to go out of your comfort zone to help others who really need it. I will be a part of this council again this year, and I am excited to stay involved even after I graduate. I encourage all of you to apply next year to the Community Food Bank Leadership Council and get involved in the fight against hunger,” Flahive told the sophomores.
Part of the retreat experience included a budgeting exercise. Students in each breakout group received an $18 budget and a list of food prices, and were asked to purchase food for one day for a family of five. The student groups dealt with various life situations, including the need to purchase food for an infant, or a family member with a gluten-free diet.
“I liked the activity where we had $18 to provide food for our given family,” Ella said. “It helped me learn about how difficult it can be for some families to buy food for their families because they may have dietary restrictions or a limited amount of money to spend each day.”
Raphaela discovered that New Jersey has a greater amount of people with food insecurity than New York. She added, “I also learned how hard it is to survive with only $18 for the week with a family of five, especially if someone in the family has special needs.”
Katherine said she now has a better understanding of food insecurity. She said it saddened her to learn that the amount of financial assistance that is available to families only covers the cost of one meal a day.
Annabelle found that creating a meal plan with a limited budget put the issue of food insecurity into perspective.
“At the retreat, I learned that food insecurity has many factors and that many more people have become food insecure because of the pandemic,” Morgan added.
Alexis said the retreat helped her understand how important it is to donate to the food drive's AHA hosts.
Areliz said, “I learned how to create a balanced eating lifestyle with not a lot of money, as well as what we should do to help people who suffer from food insecurity.”
Clara noted that she now realizes that different families have different budgets.
Samma commented that she learned how to care for the needs and wishes of people who are experiencing hunger while offering healthy options.
The retreat allowed Breanna to see that food insecurity is an issue for people in a variety of economic situations, including middle class families.
Haeun’s retreat experience showed her that food insecurity is a serious problem, and there are ways for the general public to lend a hand.
“We can volunteer at places like the food bank and try to help with the problem,” she said.
Kira gained awareness of the social determinants of health. She also discovered how many factors lead people into poverty and the inability to provide food for themselves and their families.
“This has inspired me to try to help others in need, and I plan to bring my family to do community service in food banks,” Kira said.