After college, some Lawrentians resign from their interest in activism and nonprofit work. However, one Appleton native, Kathleen Olen ‘05, has taken on these experiences in addition to her corporate workload.
Last week, she took part in a 5-day challenge to function on $1.50 a day. For this challenge, hosted by the organization Live Below The Line, she has already raised over $3,500 for the World Food Program, making her one of the top 10 fund-raisers for the event. While the 5-day challenge ended, she has made a continuous effort to raise awareness about the issue of world hunger and how regular young adults can make a difference in a busy schedule.
Olen did the challenge with a friend, so they were able to buy $15 worth of food. This shopping trip’s specificity was quite a challenge given the usual availability of food in Chicago. “We have a huge food culture here and can have whatever we want whenever, so I wanted to try walking a mile in some shoes that didn’t have access to these choices,” she stated. Even within Chicago, there are huge food deserts without locations that sell fresh foods, and many people don’t have transportation to go shopping anyway.
In mimicking this environment, Olen’s shopping resulted in a sodium-laden meal plan of hot dogs, ramen, and mac and cheese. Some college students may think this in fun in the context of a very pricey education with an amazing cafeteria alternative, but cheap junk food is the main cause of nutrition issues around the world. Even with a few inexpensive produce items, Olen emphasized the unsustainability of this kind of diet. As a swim team alumna currently in training for a half Iron Man, she struggled to find energy to train during the challenge, much less have a social life. “At work, I found myself watching the clock between meals. Many people suffering from hunger don’t have desk jobs either, so I can only imagine having work and then exerting more energy to get back home,” she said.
In terms of fundraising and getting more deeply involved, Olen was able to easily identify the reasons for championing a cause like world hunger. “Nobody disagrees with the idea that hunger and poverty are bad,” she said, “so it’s easy to drum up support with the right kind of advertisement. I only started a funding page because people were asking for one.” The financial commitment to helping pay for meals is also very minimal at the price of 25 cents per meal through the World Food Program. The food is served at schools, which encourages children to get an education in addition to a healthy meal.
While the challenge has ended, Olen plans to continue her involved with the cause of world hunger. To make a contribution to her page or other organizations, see www.livebelowtheline.com/me/bellekathleen—or consider being a part of the challenge as an individual next year.