Students involved in the Summer Health Institute at USC-Aiken aim to fight against hunger in South Carolina by organizing food drives.
News 12 This Morning at 6 o'clock / Monday, June 20, 2011
AIKEN, S.C. --- One in four children in South Carolina is at risk of going hungry. The need for food assistance grew 20 percent over last year, according to the Golden Harvest Food Bank. More than 100 students from high school seniors to college freshmen from all over South Carolina are trying to change that trend.
Golden Harvest explains when children are out of school the problem can be worse. They don't have the benefit of a free school breakfast in the morning or a lunch in the afternoon.
For the students taking part in the Summer Health Institute at USC-Aiken, stacking the deck against hunger is no easy task. The students are determined to feed hundreds of hungry stomachs one food drive at a time.
"Hunger leads to a bunch of different things in health care. It's really great to get involved in everything," said Kelsey Williams, who will be a pre-med student at the University of South Carolina in the fall.
Most of the students at the food drive are like Williams. Their goal is to get into the health care field.
"I wanted to be a doctor ever since I was in the third grade," explained Williams.
Michael Firmin, executive director of the Golden Harvest Food Bank, said food is the most basic need human beings have.
"If you're not eating, you're not going to be healthy," Firmin said.
Kay Benitez, with the South Carolina Development Office added, "What we hope happens is that these students will see the need, see how they can as a person help people respond to the need."
With each load, they created an assembly line to fight for their cause.
"It means the world to me because I got into health care because I love people. I wanted to help people. This is great because I want to help people the way I want to," Williams said.
"Even they weren't aware of how serious a problem hunger and malnutrition is in South Carolina," said Firmin.
A state where one in six people go to bed hungry.
"It's working families who cannot make ends meet," he added.
Angelica Christie, the director of the health careers program for South Carolina's Area Health Education Consortium, helped organized the food drive.
She says, "You hear about things, but once you see it, it makes a bigger impact."
This drive isn't just about the food. Students ripped through boxes of diapers, eager to get them to families in need.
"Many of them had been taken off and put back on after they'd been cleaned up," explained Benitez. "Because parents couldn't afford diapers."
"Everything is linked to health care. It's really great experience," said Williams.
The hope is that the students will go back into their communities and use the skills they learned during their week long health institute put it to use in their communities to organize similar drives throughout the state.
The Golden Harvest Food Bank estimates 400 people showed up during the drive. Food distribution is higher in the summer, according to the food bank. Most people think to donate during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but if you have some time, get together some canned goods and take it down to your nearest food bank.