Prior to joining the No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassador program, I was not aware how widespread the issue of childhood hunger was in my community and in our country, nor was I aware of its devastating effects. I thought hunger was something that occurred in other places, to other people. But as I embarked on my Youth Ambassadorship, I quickly began to learn about and understand the negative impact hunger can have on children, families and communities. In the United States, 14.5% of families are food insecure, but in the state of Texas that number jumps to 18%, according to USDA’s Household Food Security Report. Nearly 1 in 5 Texans (4.41 million) are living in poverty. As a student at Baylor University, I was compelled to do more to address this silent epidemic.
One of the first things I wanted to do was raise awareness around the issue of childhood hunger. To do this I organized an event on campus that focused on the issues surrounding hunger in our country. The event, called The Drive to Hunger Awareness, was both a food drive and an open forum to educate, encourage dialogue and highlight ways students could make a difference in the fight against hunger in their community as well as create meaningful systemic change.
The event featured an overview of hunger issues facing the state of Texas by Taylor McKinney, a Breakfast Outreach Specialist from the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI). I recruited students from the Campus Kitchen at Baylor University and World Hunger Relief, Inc. to speak to students about how they could engage on the topic of hunger on campus and in their community. One easy way to make a difference immediately is simply to volunteer at your local food bank or hunger relief organization. I also talked to the students about the power of advocacy by way of social media, letter writing, and talking about the cause with their peers and community leaders. We each told a story of how the issue of hunger came to us and why we felt inspired to lend our voice to the cause. We told our stories to show that hunger is an issue that can be addressed by students on a college campus, because we were able to affect hunger as students.
As a Youth Ambassador, another responsibility I undertook was facilitating the No Kid Hungry Twitter Campaign for the student track of the THI Summit in October. I gave a brief speech discussing child hunger and the importance of student advocacy. I shared my story of how I got involved in the fight against child hunger and I encouraged the students to advocate for the issue as well. I also laminated the No Kid Hungry signs, so now they are reusable (but can still be personalized) for the Twitter Campaign. The students really enjoyed taking pictures with the signs and tweeting their legislators.
Being a Youth Ambassador helped me realize the value and power of my own voice. As a college student, I have a perspective that is unique and not always heard from. We can lend our voices to help those that cannot speak for themselves, especially hungry children who don’t know where their next meal will come from. We can use our voices to increase hunger awareness throughout the nation, and help kids get access to the nutritious, stable meals that they need.
The Youth Ambassador experience is unique, because every Youth Ambassador does something different in support of the fight against child hunger. We all support and learn from each other, and that is another testament to the value of collaboration. I feel like my experience as a Youth Ambassador helped me to make a difference on my campus and in my community and I hope I was able to inspire others. I felt so lucky to have been a Youth Ambassador and do the work I did. It was an honor to advocate for a cause I believe in and this experience has helped me realize my commitment to community service and the power of what one person can achieve.
Riya Rahman is from Plano, Texas and a senior at Baylor University. She is studying Political Science. Riya has always been interested in anti-hunger work in developing countries, but she was astonished to learn of the rate of food insecurity in her own hometown. That is what led Riya to become part of the solution by becoming a No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassador.