Nadia Burrough chose to take a path not taken very often by her peers.
As a senior at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, her curriculum required her to take an internship. But instead of interning at a hotel or restaurant, Burrough decided to do something different, choosing instead to intern at the Office of University Sustainability.
For Burrough, it was a natural fit and allowed her to spearhead an effort to raise awareness for hunger and food insecurity issues on National Food Day at Biscayne Bay Campus.
Thanks to Burrough, FIU joined the discussion across the nation Oct. 24 in an effort to help people make healthier nutritional choices and combat hunger on global, national and local levels.
“I grew up in Oregon, which is known for environment conservation and activism. I grew up with it rooted in me. It was just a way of life, something that came naturally to me,” Burrough said. “I want to be part of the solution.”
The event also provided an opportunity for the school to collect food items for the new FIU Food Pantry, which launches next month and will aim to feed students, faculty and staff that find themselves in dire situations. Students brought canned foods that will be used to give the pantry a starting supply when it officially opens.
Run by the Wellness Center, the pantry will look to develop partnerships with organizations such as Feeding South Florida and other food banks in addition to food drives on campus to supply the pantry. In addition to the food drive, there was also an exhibit that featured free food demonstrations, nutritional education activities and a sustainability table run by Carrie Kashar and Alexandra Dutton of the Office of University Sustainability for students who passed by.
Afterwards, a panel that consisted of representatives from Miami Rescue Mission, Feeding South Florida and Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth (FLIPANY) – moderated by Hospitality Professor John Buschman — discussed the complexities and factors that result in food insecurity and hunger at the national, state and local levels.
In between a showing of selected scenes from the 2012 documentary “A Place at the Table,” which highlights the problem of hunger in the United States, the panel and audience discussed the factors that lead to hunger both at a national level and in South Florida. Those factors include unemployment, harmful farm policies and the cost of living, among others.
According to Feeding South Florida, there are approximately 949,910 “food insecure” individuals who are struggling to put food on the table in South Florida. Of those, nearly one in four are children.
The panel also discussed possible solutions for the issue, including better education, increased political action and local volunteerism.
“The face of hunger is often invisible. Someone might be hungry and we don’t even know it,” said Feeding South Florida VP of Programs and Initiatives Sari Vatske, who was part of the panel. “Hunger is a symptom of a larger problem. Hunger is simple, poverty is complex. We need to get from a place of dependency to a place of self-sufficiency. It’s not about just getting by, but thriving.”
The day ended with a Hunger Banquet at the new Restaurant Management Lab coordinated by Hospitality Instructor and Chef Judith Williams, but there was a catch. Without any of the attendees knowing what was happening, the guests were divided into three areas which represented a different area of the world: underdeveloped nations living in extreme poverty and first-world industrialized nations.
While those sitting in the first-world table received a full-course meal, others sitting at tables representing underdeveloped countries received either a piece of bread and water or rice and beans. Afterwards, a conversation took place discussing what emotions and thoughts occurred during the experiment.
“The biggest thing is making hunger a reality for people,” Burrough said. “Not just hearing about hunger, but actually seeing what it would be like.”