Lessons From the Hungry

Henley High School seniors Macy Hullman and Sophia Gomez show some of the items in the school’s food pantry as part of the program Hunger: Not Impossible.

Henley High School seniors Macy Hullman and Sophia Gomez show some of the items in the school’s food pantry as part of the program Hunger: Not Impossible.

Two Henley High School seniors share what they learned when they created a program to help hungry teenagers. Read on to find out about Hunger: Not Impossible

Editor’s note:
Henley High School seniors Macy Hullman and Sophia Gomez started their senior project, Hunger: Not Impossible, as sophomores “because we wanted to help end hunger not only in our school but our community. We saw the problem and we committed to end hunger.” Following is their personal narrative of that experience.

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“Somedays I wanted to give up.” said one of our participants. Hunger is painful, debilitating, affecting health, education, behavior, and lives. Unless you are hungry, you will never know how it feels. Hunger is real. Fatigue, aches, dizziness, nausea, and emptiness are prevalent with hunger. Hunger does not discriminate. Hunger knows no race, religion, age or gender. Hunger is everywhere: developing countries, major cities, rural areas -- everywhere. Henley High School’s goal: ending hunger in Klamath Falls.

Society today has taken white out and blotted out the bad and unfortunate events in our world. In our world there is hate, homelessness, hunger, sickness, and much more. Just like we judge the person on the street corner, we judge our future.

We worry and get anxious about everything that is about to come our way. We are selfish in which we often only care about our circumstances, and our jobs, our money, or our life. We know we’re guilty of it.

Henley students volunteer to help with the Hunger: Not Impossible program. Overall, 24 students Henley and Mazama volunteered over 558 of their summer hours to the project.

When Bobbie Britton and Carly Fullerton invited us to lunch with some Hunger: Not Impossible participants, we were unsure about what the participants would be wearing, if they would talk to us, or if they would even show up to lunch. If they did come to Abby’s, would they get there by car or by bike or by simply walking from their tent of a home? Would they be barely clothed? Would they have no teeth? Would they be emaciated? Would they have a foul odor?

When we arrived, we were constantly looking around for some ”homeless” people waiting for us in the parking lot. As soon as we saw this car, we knew it had to be them. This car was piled high with things on top and packed inside with probably their only belongings. We watched closely outside Abby’s window. The van was decrepit, exhausted, and aged. It had bald tires, chipped paint, squeaky doors, and a sputtering engine. There were blankets and pillows inside and baggage strapped above. Inside the dirty van were people who did not look hungry. They looked normal. They had decent clothes and wore a slight smile. They walked up to us and kindly introduced themselves. We went in and ordered pizza. The teenage boy had a personal favorite: Hawaiian.

Halfway through the lunch, we realized, this boy and his mother were just trying to be a normal family in Klamath Falls. We realized labeling them “homeless” and “hungry” and “bums” were wrong. They do not deserve to be called “homeless, hungry, or bums.” They are people. The conversations with the participants were real and heartfelt. They have dreams, goals, and aspirations. The boy wants to go into trade and open his own business after earning his GED, and the mom wants to get an apartment for her and her son. They also want to help others and make a difference. They see the problem and they want to help end hunger in Klamath Falls.

It happens every day. Hunger is like a disease spreading from one family to the next. Unfortunately, it is the children who suffer the most. And it’s not their fault. Food insecure teens deserve better, and they should always be allowed access to food. Without food, we have no energy, motivation, or hope. Sadly, hungry teens suffer from these insecurities and therefore it limits them more than a healthy, well-fed teen. They have to sit in class all day and struggle to focus on their education.

For most of us, summer is the happiest time of the year. School is out, the sun is shining, and the days feel endless. However, this is not the case for everyone. According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 people are hungry in America. Sadly, this equates to 10,890 food insecure people in Klamath Falls. How can we fix this? How do you decrease this intimidating number? Commit to a possible solution, and then figure it out. A group of Henley High School students committed to fighting hunger in Klamath Falls. But they did more than commit … they figured it out.

Last year, Henley High School partnered with Hunger: Not Impossible and piloted a small community version. Hunger: Not Impossible is a program decreasing hunger. HNI leverages mobile technology to provide healthy, ready-to-eat meals for homeless and food-insecure people. In spring of 2017, Henley exceeded a $9,000 goal raising around $10,000 in two weeks. These funds were used to feed hungry teens last summer and this summer. Through this partnership, Henley enrolled food-insecure teens, serving 203 meals.

This year, Henley continued the program and expanded it to food-insecure teens and their families. Many times, the participants would not order food because they felt guilty eating in front of their family who was hungry as well. They would rather be hungry with their family than eat in front of them. After enrolling teens and their families, there was a significant increase! With an increase in participants, Henley served 618 meals to 26 families in two months.

There were 24 HNI student volunteers from Henley and Mazama who volunteered over 558 of their summer hours. They served those in need and helped fight hunger in the Klamath Falls community. The volunteers ensured the HNI participants received their food each night from 4 to 8 p.m. Every volunteer made an impact and a difference. They worked hard, helped others, and changed lives. They helped one and helped many!

This amazing program would have been impossible without the generous help of the Klamath Falls community. There were many anonymous donors and business donors. Jalapenos Taco Shop, Gino’s, North Shore, Wubba’s, and Chicken Shack were our participating restaurants in HNI. These restaurants fed the Hunger: Not Impossible participants every day in June and July. After ordering a meal, participants would go to the restaurant they ordered from and pick up their meal which was already paid for by the community’s donations. One participant said, “This program is perfect for teens and I don’t feel bad getting food.” For maybe the first time in their lives, HNI participants were normal customers getting a basic necessity: food.

Henley High School will continuously commit to decreasing hunger in the Klamath Falls community. “It’s a big problem and not just (for the) kids who are starving but the poor adults on the street.” said one participant. Hunger is painful. Hunger is debilitating. Hunger is sad. The Hunger: Not Impossible participants are hungry. They do not know where or when their next meal will come from. They go to bed hungry and wake up hungry. Some of the participants live in a tent. Some of them live in a car. Some of them live on the streets. We started Hunger: Not Impossible because we see the problem and we see the need in our school and community. No one deserves to be hungry. Hunger should, must, and will end.

Press release provided from the Klamath County School District.

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Last year, Henley served 203 meals in three months. This year, Henley worked hard and tripled its meals served, serving 618 meals in two months. We are working hard and committing to doubling our volunteers, participants, and meals served this upcoming year. Knowing Henley High School, we are gonna do more than commit … we are gonna figure it out. If you are interested in helping end hunger in Klamath Falls and/or donating to Hunger: Not Impossible, contact Bobbie Sue Britton at brittonb@kcsd.k12.or.us or Carly Fullerton at fullertonc@kcsd.k12.or.us