West Virginia University’s Food Recovery Network is raising awareness about homelessness and food insecurity this week, calling on students to tackle inequalities in their community.

WVU’s Food Recovery Network sponsored a series of events in tandem with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 16-22, including a presentation on ideas to combat food waste by Suncrest Middle School students and a panel of local leaders entitled "Hunger: the Cost in your Community." The final event, a screening of "Just Eat It! A Food Waste Movie" will show at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Gluck Theater.

"Food recovery is not very popular because, for large businesses, it’s easier to just throw the food away," said Hilary Kinney, a leader of the Food Recovery Network at WVU. "I thought this (campaign) would be a great opportunity for us to have some awareness events."

Logistical challenges of food recovery, such as obtaining food handlers permits and working with large dining halls accustomed to a certain routine, are difficult for the Food Recovery Network to overcome, Kinney said.

For students interested in recovering food for the needy that would otherwise be wasted, Kinney said the Food Recovery Network will be starting recovery from new locations in the spring semester and welcomes new members.

Other on campus organizations are working to combat hunger and homelessness, as well.

The Food Justice Lab at WVU, founded in 2010 by Dr. Bradley Wilson of the Geography Department, allows students and faculty on campus to conduct research together on food inequality and insecurity in West Virginia and abroad.

"(Food Justice is) not just about food," said Rebecca Speer, an undergraduate researcher in the lab. "It’s about the environmental impact, the nutritional impacts in children and labor rights for those who work in food production."

Researchers in the Food Justice Lab tackle a variety of complicated questions regarding unequal access to food across varying communities, often finding that grassroots solutions have been undertaken to combat food inequality and insecurity throughout West

Virginia.

Gerardo Valera, an undergraduate geography student, focuses his research on alternative food, or food produced outside of the conventional economic

system.

Valera pointed to community initiatives like Grow Ohio Valley, which increased residents’ access to healthy food through urban gardens and mobile food pantries; community initiatives that were not brought forth by the state government or private

corporations.

FoodLINK acts as an arm of the Food Justice Lab, hoping to alleviate food inequality in West Virginia by connecting the research at the lab with the public through spreading awareness on complex issues of food inequality and sharing information on various statewide emergency food

organizations.

FoodLINK was launched in mid-October during Food Justice Day on WVU’s campus.

Political student organization The Young Democrats is also taking time to give back, focusing its efforts on the daily struggles faced by the

homeless.

Mindful of the upcoming harsh winter in Morgantown, The Young Democrats launched a campaign for donations to make kits for the homeless that include basic survival items like blankets, said Ashton Cutrer, a Young Democrats

member.

The organization is also promoting a friendly political rivalry on campus through the campaign, labeling each donation jar with a different political party.

More importantly, The Young Democrats want to ensure the donations have a strong local impact, said Matthew Winkler, another member of the organization.

"We’re trying to make sure that people’s donations stay in the area," he said. "(This way), they can see direct change resulting from their

contributions."