Miami University’s English department is hoping students will feed their minds instead of their bodies Tuesday night at Writer’s Harvest, an event to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in Oxford and surrounding communities.
In its 16th year at Miami, Writer’s Harvest will feature short readings from various creative writing faculty members to raise money for local organizations fighting hunger.
“It’s a way that students can hear the work of their writing professors all at once,” said Eric Goodman, professor of English and the event’s organizer. “It’s a fun night and a way for students to feel like they’re making some small contribution to helping fight hunger in our area.”
According to Goodman, Writer’s Harvest began in 1984 as a reading event sponsored by Share Our Strength (SOS), a Washington, D.C.-based group that raises money around issues of hunger in collaboration with creative writing programs around the country.
SOS also held fundraisers such as Taste of the Nation, which featured a sampling of cuisine in different cities around the country.
“It turned out that those Taste of the Nation events raised so much more money than the readings, that when they lost the sponsorship of American Express, Share Our Strength stopped doing the national reading,” Goodman said. “But we carried on here, so now we do the reading ourselves and distribute the funds directly.”
Writer’s Harvest is collaborating with Pledge a Meal (PAM) for the event, a program which allows students to donate to local food banks using their university meal plans.
Those attending Writer’s Harvest can donate money and register for PAM at the event. There is a suggested donation of $5 for students and $10 for faculty for the reading, according to Goodman.
“No amount is too small,” Goodman said.
Money from Writer’s Harvest and PAM will go to the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank, the Oxford Community Choice Pantry and Serve City in Hamilton, all organizations dealing with hunger, Goodman said.
According to Hailee Gibbons, an AmeriCorps VISTA leader working through the Office of Community Engagement and Service, hunger is an issue that is ubiquitous, which is why funds will go to organizations in three communities.
“We wanted to continue to support our existing partnerships,” Gibbons said. “But we also recognized that we have a lot of Miami students that go to Hamilton and Cincinnati to volunteer, work or live, so we wanted to extend support to those communities as well.”
According to Goodman, in previous years, Writer’s Harvest has raised roughly $600 to $700 each year, with the PAM program having raised close to $6,000.
William Howe, visiting assistant professor of English, has been reading at Writer’s Harvest for four years and said it is a program that is worth supporting.
“(When I started participating in the event,) I was told it was a way for the faculty to thank students for being generous and pledging a meal or giving money to help others,”
Howe said. “It’s really neat that students are actively giving a considerable amount of money to help with hunger and homelessness.”
Howe said attendants should expect fun stories, poems and performances at the event.
“People are trotting out interesting bits of work to read and it’s not very long so it’s not as boring as some readings can be,” he said. “(Students) get to see your professors do things that you don’t normally see them do.”
With the state of the economy, Goodman said thinking about hunger is especially important at this time of year because organizations supported by Writer’s Harvest are now in greater need of donations.
“The idea of hunger seems like such a hard thing to deal with by yourself,” Goodman said. “(Events like this) give people the chance to feel like they’re doing something about it.”
Sponsored by the creative writing department, the event will feature readings from visiting assistant professors Joseph Bates and William Howe, visiting faculty Joseph Squance, assistant professor Brian Roley, professor Kay Sloan and Maria Alvarez, a Spanish department poet.