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On a Mission to Feed the Hungry

On a Mission to Feed the Hungry

Student efforts to end hunger leaves them with a real world learning experience.

When LMU’s van pulls up along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif., the line of homeless people waiting for a meal already stretches around the block. Every Tuesday for the past 10 years students have volunteered their lunch hour to make and deliver sandwiches to the homeless through a service project known as Feed the Hungry.

The grassroots student program was an initiative of Theresa Thibodeaux ’02. Now a resident minister with Student Housing, she became motivated to act when she was a student after participating in a “brown-bag o’rama,” at which she distributed lunches to homeless people at Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade in 1998.

“The hardest reality for me to endure occurred when we encountered a group of teenagers. One girl we met was four months pregnant and ‘eating for two,’” recalled Thibodeaux. “I began to question what I was seeing, wondering how a country so rich that it guarantees the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness allows this to happen to its very own citizens?”

Soon after, with the support of her fellow students and Campus Ministry, Thibodeaux raised enough money to secure one year of weekly meal deliveries. Since then, the program has continued to grow.

According to Brendan Busse ’99, Campus Ministry’s director of community service and social justice, Feed the Hungry meets a very basic need that everyone can understand and agree with while requiring a manageable commitment from students.

The entire project takes less than two hours. Regulars know the drill, at 11:30 a.m. they set up to make 100 sandwiches right outside the Campus Ministry offices. Curious passers-by offer to help, and soon there is an assembly line of volunteers stuffing chips, candy, cookies and drinks into bags.

By 12:30 p.m., students arrive at the Ocean Park Community Center and begin to hand out lunch bags. It is in those brief moments that many students begin to consider the deeper questions of social justice. “Whatever anxieties or worries I am facing that day, the experience always centers me and reminds me of the blessing of life,” says Carlos Rodriguez, a first-year student. “While my biggest worry is getting an A on a test, others are worried about getting food in order to live.”

Sophomore Allison Ryan has participated in Feed the Hungry since her first year at LMU. “It supplements my education by taking me off campus and allowing me to interact with the real world. It exposes me to the realities of hunger and homelessness that surround us every day but often go unnoticed,” she says.

Part of Busse’s vision for the future is to keep the nature of the service program as a gateway for students to engage in service opportunities, but also implement new ways to deepen the commitment to feed the hungry. “Ultimately, we want students to go out into the world and change it so that there is no more hunger,” Busse says.

Back on campus by 1:15 p.m., students unload the van, but not without reflecting on the day’s lesson. “It’s simple, but at the same time so profound … Feed the Hungry has taught me to take the life of selflessness and love that we experience at LMU across to the communities around us,” Rodriguez said.