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Otterbein Tackles Hunger and Homelessness

Otterbein Tackles Hunger and Homelessness

By Alli Bates ’16

Hunger and homelessness are issues that affect millions of people nationwide. Some may think that a small, private university like Otterbein is immune to these issues, but that is not true. 

As a college of opportunity, Otterbein has always welcomed students of all backgrounds. Of this year’s first-year students, 32 percent are Pell eligible, which means many of these families are below the poverty level. Otterbein is also seeing an increase in food insecurity, meaning students don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Otterbein is starting a co-op to help meet their needs.

The Otterbein community is also helping to raise awareness and to serve those suffering from hunger and homelessness through the Hunger and Homelessness Week campaign and by partnering with charities year-round.

Hunger and Homelessness Week

Otterbein students are raising awareness during Hunger and Homelessness Week on campus, Nov. 16-20. Coordinated by the Center for Community Engagement, a series of events will educate the campus community and benefit a regional food bank.

Perhaps the most visible effort in their educational campaign is the cardboard colony. On Monday, Nov. 16, students demonstrated the struggle of homeless citizens by building a cardboard colony on Towers Lawn, occupying the structures for part of the day and engaging with fellow students who passed by. Cardboard signs with statistics about homelessness in Ohio lined the sidewalk near the colony. 

Also part of Hunger and Homelessness Week, students participated in a soup line and raised awareness and funds for Mid-Ohio Food Bank with the Home Runs for Homelessness Kickball Tournament.

Food Insecurity

Raising awareness is important because homelessness and hunger are local, statewide and national issues. There are 48.1 million Americans who live in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children.

The main causes of food insecurity in the United States are unemployment, high housing costs, low wages and poverty, lack of access to SNAP (food stamps) benefits and medical or health costs.

Ohio exhibits statistically significantly higher household food insecurity at a rate of 16.9 percent compared to the U.S. national average of 14.3 percent.


  • One in six Americans live on incomes that put them at risk for hunger
  • More than 14 million American children rely on food banks for assistance
  • An estimated 1,979,000 people in Ohio are considered poor
  • 208,639 people (18.1 percent) in Franklin County, Ohio, are living in poverty
  • The risk of poverty is greater for 18- to 24-year-olds than for most other age groups

Otterbein students, faculty, staff and organizations partner with Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM) throughout the year to serve the Westerville community. WARM has served more than 17,720 individuals—including 7,022 children—in the Westerville community to help alleviate the problem of hunger in the Westerville community.

Crafting for a Cause

One group on campus is working to provide warmth and comfort to the homeless during the cold Ohio winters. 

Stitches to Share: Crafters for a Cause is a community service group that started in November 2011.  Comprised of students, faculty and staff from Otterbein, the group meets in the library every four to six weeks to work on crafted items like scarves, hats and mittens to donate to regional charities. Its mission is to warm those in need through knitting, crocheting, looming and quilting.

“The goal of our group is to produce handmade gifts that demonstrate to the recipients that someone is thinking about them and wants to help,” said Judy Carey Nevin, one of the group’s founders.

Stitches to Share members designate a charity to receive their donations for six to eight weeks before rotating to another charitable organization. Membership in the group is open to anyone affiliated with Otterbein, including students, staff, and faculty.

“A lot of the people in our group were strangers before we started meeting. Hopefully, they will create friendships as they continue their participation in Stitches to Share,” said Nevin.

Experience knitting or crocheting is not required to join the group and instruction is provided at each meeting. In addition to collecting handmade items, the group also accepts donated supplies and yarn for its projects as well as financial support to purchase supplies. For more information about upcoming meetings or how to get involved, please contact Penny Sens at psens@otterbein.edu.

Learn more about Otterbein’s Center for Community Engagement and their outreach programs.

Look through a photo gallery from the cardboard colony on our Flickr page.

Find out how you can help Westerville Area Resource Ministry serve the Westerville community.