Wednesday, Oct. 15
Five seemingly normal teenagers, dressed in the typical college garb of hoodies and jeans, slipped quietly through the automatic doors at the Safeway grocery store on Elizabeth Street on a mission to understand the crisis of world hunger.
At the head of the group with his classic grin spread wide, Travis Hall, the founder of the hunger coalition Seven Days for Seven Dollars, led his small posse of participants to purchase $7 worth of food each – $1 per day – to last seven days.
Hall said Seven Days for Seven Dollars was designed to increase participants’ awareness of the reality of hunger in developing countries and help them experience hunger on a lesser degree to empathize with the people affected by the crisis.
“It’s been about learning what hunger means and experiencing that in order to fuel our passion and create a commitment to make a change in the world,” Hall said. “It’s about that experience and realizing what that’s like and the impact.”
“I got sick this year, and waking up hungry every day, it’s brought a new perspective to my life,” Hall added later in a phone interview. “I want to make sure that I work to change that feeling, change that for the people who really experience it.”
In its third year, 75 people signed up to participate in the program, a considerable number compared to the program’s 15 participants in 2007 and four total participants in 2006.
Hall told participants the program orientation on Oct. 14 to get into small “support” groups to share the experience of shopping, eating limited meals and discussing progress and reactions about the weeklong personal challenge.
8:55 p.m. Wednesday
Hall and two of his four companions – Lauren Lafontaine, a freshman graphic design major, and Jiajia Liu, a freshman soil crop science and agricultural business double major – set off at a hustled pace, past the self-checkout station, past the cereal isle, past the racks of Halloween candy and stopped in front of the long stretches of bread.
“Get wheat; it’s better for you,” Hall said, as the two girls sorted through the multi-grain, white, honey wheat, thick and thin-cut loaves of bread.
Hall explained that he planned to do the same thing he did last year and buy two loaves of bread, peanut butter and a jar of jelly.
9:04 p.m. Wednesday
After the group moved deeper into the store and Liu said she wanted to see what vegetables she could get on her limited budget, they met up with fellow participant, Lannea Russell, who was struggling to decide between a can of peaches for $1.39 or a can of tuna for $2.39.
Russell, a CSU graduate student, and chair of the planning committee for the annual CSU Oxfam Hunger Banquet said she was excited to participate in the program for her second year and deeply appreciated Hall’s efforts and how they complimented her work with the banquet.
“The hunger banquet is more focused on the world hunger, and I think that what Travis is doing brings awareness to the issue here and how it affects people more locally,” Russell said later. “It brings it home to how many people in our country are feeling, how hunger is really prevalent in our back yard, and then looks at how we can make a change in the future.”
9:18 p.m. Wednesday
With the addition of Russell and two other original group members in tow, Jake Betzen, a freshman forestry major, and Trent Moore, a freshman electrical engineering major, the group focused on sources of protein and moved into the canned food isle.
Lafontaine beat Hall to the last 18 ounce jar of generic peanut butter on the shelf.
“Wouldn’t that be cool if all that peanut butter was gone because people doing Seven Days for Seven Dollars bought it up?” Hall asked, smiling a hopeful smile.
9:27 p.m. Wednesday
Hall and Russell said they were concentrated on buying food that would yield the greatest number of calories and servings, even though people suffering from hunger do not share in the same luxury.
Russell said she thought she would get more servings of bread by buying flour and baking her own flat bread. She found that a pound of generic brand flour would yield 30 servings and about 3,500 calories compared to a store-bought loaf which yielded 2,300 calories. Russell settled on the flour.
Hall adopted her idea of baking his own as well.
9:35 p.m. Wednesday
The six shoppers filed through the checkout line, quietly awaiting the final total to see if they stayed within the limit including tax.
Liu was the first to finish; her two loaves of wheat bread, a canister of powdered Tang and bag of unpeeled, organic carrots in hand.
“I’m doing this so that I get to know what’s going on,” Liu said. “I get to know how it feels – the people experiencing hunger – and draw more attention to the hunger issue.”
Many of the Seven Days for Seven Dollars participants said that they plan to attend the 4th annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet at the end of the week to further look at the crisis of world hunger and poverty and the individuals who are affected.
The banquet will be held in the Parmelee Dining Hall, located in the Parmelee residence hall, on Thursday, Oct. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
Russell said there are only 15 tickets remaining that can be purchased for $6 at the door. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Oxfam, an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice, according to the organization’s Web site.
“I think the change – the thing that’s going to make a difference, is if we can get everyone in the country to realize this – that even though we’re thousands of miles away of the people affected in Africa, make those people a part of your life,” Hall said. “Donate to a charity, work at a food bank, and think about the people that are affected and make a change.”
Senior Reporter Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.