GW’s Hunger Awareness Week was capped this week by the 10th annual 5K Help the Homeless Walkathon, which raised money for the District’s homeless residents.
The week’s other events included food and clothing drives and a hunger banquet.
A crowd of walkers, including 45 GW students, started Saturday’s walk at Freedom Plaza downtown, after General Colin Powell kicked it off with a motivational speech.
“It’s such an easy way to help out. If I am able to come here and do something to help the homeless, than it would be selfish for me not to,” said Joanie Martin, a three-year walkathon participant.
“This is what America’s all about. We are a caring and compassionate people. That’s what makes this country so great,” Powell told the participants.
To raise awareness of hunger, the Program Board and the University’s Office of Community Service sponsored a hunger banquet in the Marvin Center Ballroom Thursday.
The event’s organizers divided students into three groups, assigning each group a different income level. The students in the upper-income group were served a pasta dish from Bertucci’s. The middle-class group served themselves beans and rice. Students in the lowest group sat on the floor and ate plain rice.
“We’re trying to raise student awareness,” said Seema Patel, Office of Community Service office manager. “Lots of students will donate a dollar or two and say, `go feed the homeless,’ but they don’t think about it after that.”
Sophomore Anthony Rizzuto was designated to the lowest income group at last year’s banquet. He recalled that he was upset when he “saw three or four of these nice tables set up with some people eating all of this nice food.”
“I think that in real life this is how people might feel. I was really, really full of resentment,” Rizzuto said.
“I love coming to this every year,” he added.
“You see people at J Street every day, taking half of a sandwich, and just throwing it in the garbage,” said freshman Jeff Maraotian. “Imagine how that must feel to a hungry person when that half of a sandwich could have been going into his mouth.”
As part of the week’s events, the community service office made an arrangement for students on meal plans to donate a meal for the homeless.
According to estimates by the Fannie Mae Foundation, there are approximately 8,000 homeless people on any given day in the District.
More than 24,000 “very low income” D.C. households spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Fannie Mae estimates that D.C. has one of the largest per capita homeless populations in the country.