A different hunger games held for participating North Carolina university students

Western Carolina University is among 11 North Carolina institutions of higher learning participating in a collegiate competition to raise awareness and resources to fight hunger.

The Collegiate Hunger Challenge takes place through Saturday, April 25, with points earned based on activities each school participates in, all centered around collecting and donating food for neighbors in need or hunger awareness. The competition is sponsored by Food Lion groceries, which will put up to $22,000 toward local efforts, and the North Carolina Campus Compact.

Kathryn Darsillo, a sophomore nutrition and dietetics major, is leading the WCU team, which will be coordinated through the university’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

WCU students, faculty and staff are regular volunteers at the Community Table, a local kitchen and food pantry with a mission to provide nutritious meals to neighbors in need in a welcoming environment.

“As a society, we are becoming more aware of the hidden hunger that our communities are facing,” said Darsillo. “WCU and Food Lion are coming together in efforts to end that war on hunger and to acknowledge proper access to food as a human right. We are so excited to compete and bring innovative ideas on fighting hunger to our local table.”

WCU has long been involved in fighting food insecurity. Student, staff and faculty have led community food drives in the wake of natural and manmade disasters and continue to volunteer at the Community Table, a Sylva nonprofit food pantry, dining room and educational resource. More recently, volunteers helped create a food pantry at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site for university students and families with nutritional needs.

“Hunger and food insecurity in a community is a symptom of other, deeply rooted challenges like economic opportunity, affordable and accessible education, and poverty that must be addressed,” said Lane Perry, executive director of WCU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. “We know that there is no one panacea that can mitigate this issue on its own. It is a combination of policy, leadership and collective effort that can begin, over time, to address this issue in and across our communities. Whether hunger exists in our homes, K-12 classrooms, our institutions of higher education, or our places of business – it is nearly impossible to crave to learn and grow when you are starving to eat. This partnership with Food Lion under the leadership of Kathryn Darsillo is an effort to help address this pressing issue alongside our community partners.”

The N.C. Campus Compact is a collaborative network of colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility. The compact shares best practice information and resources, recognizes outstanding work and champions community engagement in higher education.

For more information, contact the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or servicelearning@wcu.edu.