This week, Asst. News Editor Isabella Murillo sat down with Brooke Duplantier, a senior political science and English double major who works as the program coordinator for LMU's food pantry and is president of the Oxfam club.
1. What is your role with the food pantry?
I am the food pantry coordinator. I have been for two years now and [it is] my second year working with the pantry. Basically, that just means I manage the food pantry, day to day, taking inventory [and] putting in new stock. I do a lot of food runs for the pantry where I actually go out with my own car and buy a bunch of food for the pantry from our monetary donations. I reach out to new donors to try to get grants and funding. I do marketing. [I] pretty much cover all areas of the pantry.
2. How long have you been at the pantry?
[The Center for Service and Action] (CSA) started the pantry in spring 2017 and I joined as the first student worker for the pantry in fall 2017.
3. Who is the food pantry for and why was it started?
The food pantry is for any undergraduate or graduate students. Although, we don't keep track of who goes into it. Faculty and staff are welcome to use the pantry as well. It's for anyone who is suffering from food insecurity, who's running low on their meal plan [or] doesn't have any money to finish out the semester. It's for anyone who has to struggle between buying food and buying books [and] for anyone really just struggling to put a meal into their stomach, in whatever way that may be. So, it was started kind of in recognition of the fact that college students also struggle with things like hunger, and being able to find food and provide food for themselves. Often it's not something that's really talked about in like our level community because a lot of people still assume that we're dependent on parents. I think it's also really important news at LMU, because LMU is such a wealthy school that we often forget that a lot of students are on aid [or] scholarships and might not have the means to be providing also food on top of that. And there's a lot of nontraditional college students at LMU, meaning people who are maybe coming back to complete degrees. [They] might have families, children. And we've even seen in the pantry that we're reaching those numbers.
4. How is the food bank related to the Hunger Banquet?
It's not directly [involved] with the food pantry, although I am president of Oxfam LMU, which is doing the Hunger Banquet. So it's a whole different club, although we [used] the Hunger Banquet, which is also run out of CSA, as a platform to tell [people] about the resource of the food pantry. So that's something we [really tried] to impress upon [students] this year that we [talked] about hunger in a global sense. But this is happening right here, [in] our local community and level and even at LMU. And at the very end, I [talked] about the resources.
5. What happens at the hunger banquet?
So our big event that we always put on [happened Monday night], it's our Hunger Banquet. And it's basically a simulation of global disparities in wealth and in resources. It's called a hunger banquet because we're trying to give just a small taste of a simulation in a physical way as to what it might mean not [to] be able to have a full meal. A student will walk in and be handed a card and you will be low, middle or high class and then you'll eat a meal based off of what you got. So if you're low income, you'll be sitting on the floor and you'll be eating rice and drinking water. [If you're] middle income, you'll be sitting in a chair eating rice and beans. And [if you're] high income you'll sit at a really fancy table and have like a five course meal. It's really fun. And we do it with Sursum Corda, which is a service organization that I'm also in. Their focus is hunger awareness, so as you can see, I do a lot of things that are related to hunger. It's kind of become a passion of mine since the two years since [that] I've been working with the pantry.
6. What is your role in the Oxfam club?
I'm what they call a change leader. So Oxfam America—that's the global organization—they establish college chapters across the country and then they pick change leaders. You have to apply to be a change leader and then they train you on how to lead the Oxfam club. I'm the president this year.
7. How did you discover this passion for ending hunger?
I joined Sursum Corda second semester of my freshman year, but then the following year I was elected to be vice president of social justice. And I was like, 'I don't think I deserve this title, I don't really know anything about these complex issues and I [have] to throw hunger awareness week which they're doing again this year.' ... But I had to learn about all these different factors. I had to learn about food insecurity and hunger and food deserts and food waste and all this intersection, in order to throw successful events. [I] also had to learn to be responsible and accountable to my organizations. Once I did that I realized I had been making hunger such an abstract thing when it was, in fact, really personal.
8. How is hunger a personal issue for you?
My own family, because I live in New Orleans, Louisiana, we've been affected by hurricanes twice throughout my lifetime. We've had to rely on things like food banks and pantries when I was a kid. The first time I was 8, so I have like hazy memories, and the second time I was 16. So my own family was forced into this situation not because of our economic [status] or income, because we're a really privileged family, but just because of a natural disaster. So I started to think like, 'Oh, this is a lot more closer than I was thinking before, why didn't I realize that if my family has been through this, then anyone anywhere can go through it?'
9. As a senior, what is something you want to see or accomplish in the food pantry before you graduate?
I'm hoping for the food pantry to get a bigger space so we can get refrigeration for our food. I've already started working with a community garden on campus and we've already started growing our own food. So we have fresh salad kits that will start going out at the end of the semester. I want to see fresh food in the pantry; I think it might be two semesters off but I really wanna try for it next semester, just because I think that's really important. I want to see those relationships [with our on-campus partners] to continue to grow and I need to find someone who's passionate about this to take over this job.
10. What are your plans for after college?
I'm applying for postgrad programs in hunger studies, shocker. I really want to learn more about the cultural side of food as in restaurants and what does it mean, what's your identity or what it means when you're displaced and you don't have access to food — those kinds of things. That's really interesting to me ... I'm also applying to service opportunities about food where we basically start gardens [and] teach classes. So any of those things would be amazing to do.
11. If you could meet any celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?
Bernie Sanders, because besides the fact that I definitely felt the Bern, he has had a commitment to social justice since he was so young, and he's been preaching and also practicing what he's been preaching for decades. That kind of commitment to social justice is just baffling to me. So I'm like, 'I wanna be able to do that.' I don't only want to be passionate about things in college. How do you do that? How are you that cool that you have these receipts from the 1970s where you're saying the exact same thing in 2018? That's amazing.