Race Against Hunger Off to a Record Start

Service-learning program unites U.S. students in the fight against global malnutrition.

This year, the Race Against Hunger promises to be bigger than ever. A national service-learning campaign to educate students about the symptoms and underlying causes of global hunger and malnutrition, the Race also raises vital funds for Action Against Hunger’s life-saving programs around the world.

The program has come a long way since its inception in 2008, when 500 students in four Chicago-area schools participated. Seventy-eight schools from 22 states have already signed up for this year’s Race, more than double the number of schools enrolled by this time last year.

"The people of Burundi will be able to buy two water pumps so they can have clean drinking and bathing water. It makes me feel so good that I was a part of the effort." —Tyrel, Student, Glenmont Alternative Program

“It’s unbelievable how much this program has grown in three short years and how much enthusiasm we’ve seen from students and teachers,” said Melinda Lee, Action Against Hunger’s Student Outreach Coordinator.

The Race Against Hunger couples classroom learning activities with a “fun run,” a walk or run that each school typically hosts during the spring semester. In anticipation of the fun run, students are encouraged to become an integral part of the fight against hunger by soliciting sponsorships from friends, family members, and neighbors to benefit Action Against Hunger’s humanitarian programs in more than 40 countries.

Classes that enroll in the program receive a Hunger Guide for Teachers containing subject-based activities, visual materials for discussion and classroom display, and a case study about the context in a particular country. This year, students will learn about the Afghan culture, its people, climate, and the country’s nutritional situation.

The subject-based learning activities are designed to meet curriculum requirements. For example, the activity planned for English classes involves peer editing; developing and supporting clear, focused ideas; and demonstrating understanding of the subject matter at hand through the incorporation of vocabulary.

Last year, in addition to discussing poverty and hunger in Burundi, students learned how far even a small amount of money can go toward providing access to safe water and long-term solutions to hunger. Then, they put their new-found knowledge into action through the fun run.

“After seeing the video about those in Burundi and how they live, [I realized] I couldn’t live like that,” said Tyrel, a 14 year-old at the Glenmont Alternative Program. “Glenmont has raised more than $200 in one week to donate to the cause. The people of Burundi will be able to buy two water pumps so they can have clean drinking and bathing water. It makes me feel so good that I was a part of the effort.”

The class activities—which often begin with a presentation by an Action Against Hunger representative—and the fun run are designed to be flexible; they can be completed in one day, over one week, or even over the course of a whole month, depending on the teacher’s preference.

In some places, the Race Against Hunger has become a community-wide activity.

P.S. #5 in Patterson, NJ put together a day-long event for their entire town, attended by the mayor, sheriff and other prominent community members. They joined 600 students in opening the Race Against Hunger with a street parade and other festivities.

Meanwhile, the Coretta Scott King Magnet School in University Park, Illinois, asked Eric and Kathy, who have a morning show on 101.9 FM, for their support.

“They showed up with two members of the Road Crew, chap stick for everyone, a van, a tent, music, [and snacks] for all the kids,” recalled Betsy Crawford, the school’s Race coordinator. “[They] gave us the name of their contact at Vitamin Water, who also showed up with a van and tent and enough Vitamin Water for all participants, and then some!”

With an increasing number of participating schools every year, the Race continues to raise awareness, educate, and tap into the students’ potential to become powerful agents of change.

“Sometimes, middle school students struggle to see beyond the microcosm of their own ‘world,’ but through activities such as the Race Against Hunger, which is truly engaging and educational, our students have developed the capacity to care about others, not only in their own community, but in our global community,” added Deirdre Lavery, the Principal of Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, VA.

Learn more about the Race Against Hunger and contact the Race Against Hunger team to find out how your local school can participate.