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Subcommittee advances with project to fulfill requirements for President’ Interfaith Challenge

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An Interfaith Council Subcommittee is moving forward with a project to fulfill the requirements of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

The challenge, enacted by president Barack Obama soon after his inauguration, is aimed to foster interfaith and community service on college campuses across the United States.

According to the White House website, the president feels the challenge is “an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.”

Further, “[i]nterfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together–for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers–building a Habitat for Humanity house together.”

The Interfaith Council, made up of members of the campus community such as the Interfaith Center clergy, Lisa McMahon from university advancement, Joshua Clark from SGA, Matthew Carlin from the Westfield State Foundation, students, and others, sanctioned a subcommittee to study projects that could be taken up by the university with interfaith and community service components.

Submitted by Elizabeth Preston, interim president, the Interfaith Council Subcommittee on the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge chose an initiative called PUSH.

PUSH, which stands for Presidents United to Solve Hunger, is an effort led by college and university presidents and chancellors who are working together to fight hunger on their campuses.

PUSH “is providing university presidents and students the resources they need to help commit their universities to a food-and-nutrition-secure world,” according to the initiative’s website.

The subcommittee is hoping to work on food security on the Westfield State campus before branching out to the Westfield community. Efforts to achieve this include running food drives, working to secure monies to pay for meal plans for students, and potentially creating a food bank on campus.

This initiative is currently in the planning stages.

According to the minutes of the subcommittee, the plan is due to begin implementation in the fall of 2015. This does not necessarily mean that there will be food drives or a campus food bank at that time, but the work will begin to create these items.

Fr. Warren Savage, Catholic chaplain, has explained in Interfaith Council and Subcommittee meetings that “there is no cooperation amongst people on campus. There are no bridges.” 

He has said that there are so many food drives on campus but no one coordinates them so that there is no crossing over each other.

Members of the campus community are encouraged to attend Interfaith Council and subcommittee meetings. Both committees have seats for a representative from each of the Student Government Association-recognized religiously-based clubs and organizations.

More information about PUSH can be found at alliancetoendhunger.org.

The next meeting of the Interfaith Council is April 22 at 4 p.m. in the lounge of the Interfaith Center.

The next meeting of the subcommittee is May 6 at 4 p.m. in the same location.

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