15 Minutes with April Lewandowski, Creator of the FRCC Hunger Banquet

By Madison Otten

What if I told you that some of your fellow students are struggling to get a meal? We have all heard the joke that college kids love Cup of Noodles because it’s easy to make, but what if ramen was the only thing they can afford for the week? At $0.99 a pack it’s easy to see why, especially considering that most college students could be sitting on huge student loan debt that could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many college students have to make the hard choice of either paying for groceries or paying tuition, but some colleges are taking it upon themselves remedy this issue.

At FRCC, we have The Pantry to help those who are struggling day-to-day. It’s been an invaluable resource in helping our fellow students. But that’s not all, we also have the Hunger Banquet and Wasted Food events, which are hosted and prepared by everyday students. They do all the research, preparation and planning.

There is one person who started it all, and to this day, she continues to teach her students about hunger and food insecurity in their local communities by having her students dive headfirst into the matter. This person is April Lewandowski of the English department. She has hosted the banquet for five years, and she believes that this is more than just a college class for students to perform than the old dog and pony show of exams and lectures.

Lewandowski and her students commit their time and energy to helping others in need. They spend a few class sessions learning about the effects of hunger on their communities and the world around them. They even spend a day volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies as a way to understand how a little bit of effort can go a long way in stopping hunger.

Lewandowski wanted her lessons to have a larger impact on her students, inside and outside the classroom.

“About five years ago, I found myself professionally hungry to help make writing mean something for the students instead of it just being a class where you write five essays and jump through hoops,” said Lewandowski.

After a colleague shared information about the Hunger Banquet, a program sponsored by Oxfam, Lewandowski delved deeper into the program. The first FRCC Hunger Banquet was done by the book and had the students read a script that spoke of world hunger, rather than the hunger going on at home and in their communities. So Lewandowski decided to take a nuanced approach to the banquet. The following year, she let the students take the reins.

“The students do more research into the topic and how it affects the communities around them,” said Lewandowski. “I find that the students that produce the banquet, one of the ways that they’re affected is that they’re understanding hunger. And when they all enter the course, most of them have a very limited sense of hunger and it becomes more personalized.”

 

The Hunger Banquet grew, becoming more than just a luncheon for passing patrons. It became a learning opportunity for both sides of the table. The class, itself, quickly became more than just that; it grew into a service for the people around them, in learning of the invisible struggles around them the students could take that extra step to help their peers. It’s as much a service to the community as it is to Lewandowski’s class.

“This is a service-learning course in which students can provide an opportunity for students to provide a service for their community and their campus, and through that, they will learn the lessons that they use in the course,” said Lewandowski. “In the writing course, we learn how they do the research and how they produce, and I try to make it so they realise that this is so much more than just a grade.”

Lewandowski believes that this event helps students in more than a shallow classroom setting. She helps students get real-world experience and to see that they can make a difference in the world and change someone’s life for the better.

This is part one of the FRCC’s Hunger Block series.

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