By NATHAN VOELLER/Montana State News
Approximately 85 Montana State University students and members of the Bozeman community gathered in the Strand Union Building Thursday to participate in the fourth annual Hunger for Change Fast-a-Thon, an event designed to help counteract the growing issue of hunger in the Bozeman area and raise awareness for the needy.
According to Lori Christenson, program coordinator of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, requests for emergency food box services have increased by about 7 percent in the last year alone.
Approximately 12.5 percent of community members – or one in eight people – receive varying levels of assistance from the food bank, and an average of 5,861 pounds of food is distributed per operating day, Christenson said.
To contribute to hunger relief efforts, participants in the Fast-a-Thon were encouraged to donate what they normally spend on food for a day or a nonperishable item to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. Monetary donations at the meal alone amounted to more than $300, according to the Diversity Awareness Office.
In addition to donating, attendees chose to abstain from the consumption of food and drink from sunrise on Jan. 17 until the group congregated in the evening for a meal and lectures sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, Office of the President and Diversity Awareness Office. Members of the Muslim Student Association reported that the fast was designed to simulate the effects of hunger on the impoverished to convince participants to continue supporting the hungry in the future.
“You had the chance to feel the pain the poor feel,” said Otmane Eljdid, a speaker for the Muslim Student Association.
Christenson also reported that the Community Café, an extension of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank that provides hot food in the evening, has served 26,449 meals since opening in March of last year.
“We do have people in our community that do not have access to the wonderful, healthy food that we enjoy every day,” said Christenson.
A statement released by the food bank suggests that the number of people in and around Bozeman that face food insecurity and get assistance from the food bank is at a record high.
Edited by Patrick Carroll