Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness

By Sarah Steele

Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University


The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness (NSCAHH) works with a coalition of students and community members across the country to end hunger and homelessness through education (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness).  They educate students by conducting workshops, holding conferences and completing training sessions on campuses across the country.  These educational sessions teach students to recognize the problems of hunger and homelessness in their own community and help them educate others to get involved.

The NSCAHH is currently the largest student network fighting hunger and homelessness in the country and has 600 participating campuses (Botticello 2002).  Students across the country can get involved in NSCAHH on their own campuses where they can be a part of organizing and participating in community service projects.  Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an example of one project focused on raising awareness and educating students on college campuses by going out into the community to perform services while raising money for hunger and homeless charities.  Another large event that NSCAHH helps to promote is the Annual Hunger Cleanup, which combines fundraising and community service in a push to end hunger.

Historic Roots

Public Interest Research Groups and USA for Africa established the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness in 1985.   These organizations recognized the need for awareness of the problems of hunger and homelessness, as well as the desire of a growing number of college students to get involved in service projects. 

In addition to its initial projects, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the Annual Hunger Cleanup, the NSCAHH has started several other projects.  Some examples include Food Salvage Programs, which takes unused school cafeteria food and distributes it to local soup kitchens and shelters; Project Partnership, a program where students plan new programs in their community based on the needs assessments that they perform; and SPLASH (Students Pushing Legislative Action to Stop Hunger and Homelessness) that raises awareness by letter writing and media campaigns, advocating for governmental changes in legislation affecting hunger and homelessness.  Thanks to its many projects, NSCAHH is now the largest student network working to end hunger and homelessness in the country (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness).


Many people think of hunger and homelessness as a problem in other countries around the world.  What many people do not realize is that even though the United States is the richest country in the world, over 33 million people go hungry and about 3 million are homeless.  The problem hits a lot closer to home than many Americans would like to admit.  The majority of hungry and homeless used to be single men who were substance abusers and homeless, but now over 40 percent of homeless are families struggling to get by.  Increasing housing costs, increasing number of workers that are unemployed, and an increased number of low-paying jobs are all factors of the diversifying homeless population.  Low-paying jobs are forcing people to choose to pay rent or buy groceries—not both, while a growing number of people that are employed still fall into the category of hungry or homeless.  In the 1990s, one out of every four American workers made less than $8.70 an hour, an income equal to the government’s poverty level for a family of four (Quindlen 2003). 

The NSCAHH works not only to raise money to give to directly help the hungry and homeless, they work on educating others to recognize this enormous problem and introduce them to ways that they can make a difference.  Students hope that their efforts will lead to a change in attitude about hunger and homelessness in this country and ultimately abate the problem (National Student News Service). 

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Since its conception, NSCAHH has been geared towards youth philanthropy.  Tens of thousands of students have engaged in community service and political campaigns while developing local charities, raising millions of dollars working to fight national and international hunger and homelessness (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness).

Funds raised at the Annual Hunger Cleanup are dispersed to many different organizations, an example of how donations are being used wisely.  Fifty percent of the money students raise goes to a local charity designated by the fundraising group, 35 percent goes to the NSCAHH, and the remaining 15 percent goes to the International Development Exchange (Gawen 2004). 

Key Related Ideas

Hunger is the physical sensation that results from not having enough food to eat, however, when talking about “hunger in America,” what is often meant is more accurately called “food insecurity.” 

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs due to lack of financial resources (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness).  The number of people in the United States that are food insecure is over 33 million.

Living wge is a level of income earned by a full-time worker to keep a family above the poverty line, which is set by the federal government.  The living wage varies from $6.25 to $12 depending on the city.  This is important information when you consider that the living wage is higher than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.  In essence, a family cannot be supported on a job that pays minimum wage.

Poverty is defined by “a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to detect who is poor. If a family’s total income is less than that family’s threshold, then that family, and every individual in it, is considered poor. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically, but they are updated annually for inflation with the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U)” (U.S. Census Bureau, 1).

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Julia Erickson:  Erickson is the executive director of City Harvest, a food collection agency.   She started her job more than 10 years ago and since then has increased the annual budget while food collections and demand have both doubled. 

  • Robert Forney:  Forney is currently the President and CEO of America’s Second Harvest, which directs over 200 food banks providing more than $2.3 billion in food and groceries to charitable organizations.  Prior to working for America’s Second Harvest, Forney held Presidential positions in several technological companies.

  • Jennifer Hecker:  Hecker is the current organizing director of NSCAHH and has been instrumental in organizing their national annual conference.  NSCAHH centers on helping at the local, “focusing a lot more on what we can be doing at the federal level” (Axel-Lute 2002).

  • Bill Hoogterp:  Hoogterp founded the Annual Hunger Cleanup at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is now supported by the NSCAHH.  He co-authored Hunger and Homelessness Action:  a Resource Book for Colleges and Universities, which includes guides to help in fundraising, recruiting and organizing student-led programs while profiling other successful college action projects.  Hoogterp is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Do Something and Club Mom. 

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • America’s Second Harvest is a national organization that has local ties to every county in the United States.  They are working to end hunger in the U.S. by giving out food and raising awareness of the problem of hunger here in our country (http://www.secondharvest.org).

  • The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is the nation’s largest grassroots organization working with low to moderate-income families fighting for their rights on housing and community issues.  They work to give a voice to the low-income families that otherwise would not have a say in their community (http://www.acorn.org).

  • City Harvest is New York City’s only food rescue program.  About 19.5 million pounds of food will be thrown away this year in New York City.  City Harvest picks up the usable food and drops it off to food banks and soup kitchens to feed the hungry in all corners of New York City (http://www.cityharvest.org).

  • The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a national organization that has partnered with other non-profit organizations to end homelessness.  They have a Ten Year Plan laid out with steps needed to stamp out homelessness in our country (http://www.endhomelessness.org).  

Related Nonprofit Organizations

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is a national organization fighting to end homelessness by working with economic, health care, civil rights and housing justices.  The NCH teams up with
other organizations to advocate and educate others on ways to help end homelessness (http://www.nationalhomeless.org).

Related Web Sites

The Jobs With Justice Web site, at http://www.jwj.org, looks at different ways to take action on workplace justice, community justice, global justice and student labor action.  The site gives information, case studies, and provides tools for activists looking to help improve working people’s standard of living. 

The National Housing Trust Fund Web site, at http://www.nhtf.org, gives information on legislation in progress to build and improve rental housing.  The legislation is available to read and guidelines are given to contact a representative to invite them to sign the petition.

The Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) Web site, at http://www.pirg.org, gives information on issues affecting people nationally, statewide and locally.  Topics covered include nuclear waste, clean energy, student organizations and more.  Each state’s PIRGs are locally based, but work together at the national level to share ideas and get more people involved in these issues.

The World Hunger Year Web site, at http://www.worldhungeryear.org, provides information on the two major events that they sponsor to help fight hunger including Hungerthon, where people call in to donate money for the hungry; and the WHY awards, a dinner where cash grants are awarded to media and grassroots organizations that are making a difference in the community.  Also located on the Web site is the Food Security Learning Center where articles containing U.S. hunger issues can be found.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Axel-Lute, Miriam.  Direct Action for Housing.  Shelterforce Online, 2002.  124. http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/124/directaction.html.

Botticello, Jordan.  “Award Marks 30 Years of Awareness.”  The Villanovan [updated 22 November 2002; Accessed 28 September 2004].  http://www.villanovan.com/news/2002/11/22/News/

Gawen, Lyndal.  “College students help with cleanup; National hunger event hits Worcester streets.”  Telegram & Gazette, 2004: B.3.  In ProQuest [database online].  Accessed 28 September 2004. 

National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  About Us. Accessed 24 September 2004.  http://www.nscahh.org.

National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  Hunger and Homelessness Facts.  Accessed 24 September 2004.  http://www.nscahh.org.

National Student News Service.  6000 Students Work to End Hunger and Homelessness with 17th Annual Hunger Cleanup.  [Updated 25 April 2001; Accessed 28 September 2004].  http://www.nsns.org/hhcleanup.html.

Quindlen, Anna.  “A New Kind of Poverty.”  Newsweek, 2003:  76.  In ProQuest [database online].  Accessed 28 September 2004.

U.S. Census Bureau.  Current Population Survey (CPS)- Definitions and Explanations.  [Updated 20 January 2004; Accessed 2 October 2004].  http://www.census.gov/population/www/cps/cpsdef.html.