[CUA Office of Public Affairs]


Nov. 22, 2005


In a Season of Plenty, A Lesson on Hunger at CUA


Nursing students wait in line at the "grocery store" in an exercise designed to further an understanding of hunger in America.

Katie Bates was desperate. She had only $1 to buy food. The soup kitchen was closed. She was turned down for food stamps. And when she applied for emergency assistance, she was told to fill out a form, which was in Greek!


Bates, a sophomore from Staten Island, N.Y., was learning first hand the lessons of hunger and poverty as a member of a class on nutrition and health at The Catholic University of America’s School of Nursing. Every semester the class devotes one of its two-hour meetings to a program called “Face Hunger.”


This semester’s program was presented Nov. 21 by Rubin Gist, director of advocacy and community outreach at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.. Gist assigned the nursing students to play the parts of poor, hungry people who must navigate their way through a maze of bureaucratic forms (which some of them can’t read), soup kitchens that close due to lack of food and hostile shopkeepers who raise their prices. As students made their way around the room, they quickly learned that hunger is about more than just food. It’s about access and affordability.


“Students consistently rate this program as the best part of the nutrition course,” says Kathleen Buckley, associate professor of nursing, who teaches the class.


“The class opened my eyes to a lot of things that I would never have been exposed to,” said Bates.


Bates used her $1 to buy two candy bars, proving Gist’s comment that hunger in America is not about starvation but malnutrition. But Bates was one of the lucky ones. Many in the class ended up with no food at all.


“You didn’t get food because you don’t understand what hunger is,” Gist said, addressing the students who came away empty-handed during the exercise. “You didn’t have to go home and look at your family and say, ‘We will have tomato soup today. You boil the water. I’ll get the catsup.’”

But while the program’s message was sobering, it was also uplifting. Gist told the students he needs nutrition experts like them to teach his clients about healthful foods and cooking methods.


“The class inspired me to take the knowledge that I have received from my education and help people suffering from poverty,” Bates said. “I can provide alternative ways to prepare foods and educate people about the importance of nutrition and health.”


Buckley says that every year the hunger class catalyzes students to organize food drives and volunteer at the Capital Area Food Bank, which delivers 20 million pounds of food through more than 700 member agencies every year.


“Hunger is not the problem,” Gist says. “Hunger is the symptom. Poverty is the problem.” 


— by Anne Cassidy




The Catholic University of America School of Nursing has long been one of the nation’s leading nursing schools. Founded in 1932, the school has graduated more than 8,000 nurses, many of whom now hold top leadership positions in hospitals and health care settings, academia, the military and government. Offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctor of science degrees, the School of Nursing is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. It partners with more than 130 clinical agencies in the Washington, D.C., area to provide students with a broad and diverse exposure to nursing, multicultural health care practices and state-of-the-art research.


The Capital Area Food Bank is the largest  public nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. Located near CUA at 645 Taylor Street, N.E., the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.


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Revised: 11/22/2005

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The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.