Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 13
Winter 1993
On Campus
When cupboards are bare

     Karen Curtis approaches the issue of hunger from many angles-as a
scholar and researcher, as a volunteer in two facilities that give or serve
food and as a board member of the Food Bank of Delaware.
     The associate scientist in the College of Urban Affairs and Public
Policy is currently conducting a study on the role of non-profit
organizations in combatting hunger in Delaware.
     "My first priority is to establish the extent of the problem of hunger
in Delaware through research and to document the roles of non-profit
organizations, government and business in dealing with hunger," Curtis
     When volunteer food programs and pantries were first established, they
were designed to meet emergency needs for people who were undergoing a
crisis, such as hospitalization, a fire, a job loss or a public assistance
problem, according to Curtis.
     Now, during this time of economic problems, unemployment and budget
cuts with an accompanying tightening of federal requirements for food
stamps and other programs, feeding the hungry is becoming a more acute
problem. Non-profit agencies frequently are being called upon to help on a
long-term basis, she points out.
     The food business also has tightened up on its donations of food,
Curtis says. When the food industry first began donating surplus food, it
became aware of how much waste existed in the marketplace. Food suppliers
have taken steps to become more efficient, selling food in bulk, in second
markets and in stores other than grocery stores. The result is less food
available for donations, Curtis says.
     Although, historically, many churches in Delaware have operated food
pantries, one of the first organizations to create an emergency feeding
system was Lutheran Community Services. "They kept good records about their
clients, their sources of income, the reason for need and how often they
needed food," Curtis says. Through these records, Curtis can trace
individual families and their needs over a period of years.
     For her study, she also will interview key personnel in non-profit
organizations and carry out a random survey of food assistance programs.
She plans to gather data on what kind of assistance is offered, the number
served, the size of the staff and volunteers, sources of food and
statistics about clients.
     On-site visits and observation are planned. Curtis is especially
interested in the social interaction between the diverse clients and the
role of public dining rooms in the social life of communities.
                                        -Sue Swyers Moncure