Educating WU on hunger and homelessness
Oros began her journey with hunger and homelessness when she started working with Operation Food Search in the late ’90s. Previously, no one west of the Mississippi had concentrated efforts on reclaiming perishable food for the homeless. After partnering with Operation Food Search, Oros helped start up the Second Helping Project, which collected perishable foods from Schnucks, Pizza Hut and other local businesses and donated them to agencies and shelters in need. More recently, Oros has worked as an adviser to both Feed St. Louis and the Campus Kitchen project at Wash. U.
She began working with nonprofits in her home state of Michigan and became most interested in the need to educate the homeless rather than simply provide for them. Oros said, “I focused on how to teach them to make good nutritional choices [and] cook food from scratch while being economical.”
In 2004, she began working with Stone Soup at Wash. U., which later became Feed St. Louis. Oros noted that over the years, students have taken their responsibility to feed the homeless more seriously. Eventually, Feed St. Louis introduced a dinner program, which serves 200 homeless people on Sundays.
Having worked with numerous students and groups over the years as an adviser, Oros said, “I have come to realize [that] I help the students most as a tool that fuses the disconnection between groups and agencies so that student groups will get the right fit with an agency that will be most beneficial for all.” Oros provides students with information on how to navigate the different agencies and neighborhoods around St. Louis and also comments on which ones are most in need.
Oros’s main initiative in the CSO will be to educate students about poverty and its relation to homelessness. She hopes to help students see that it is the responsibility of the more fortunate not only to counteract, but also to understand how people find themselves in homeless and hungry situations. “I want students to understand how their service to the homeless really enriches their lives,” she said.
“My main goal is to guide students to have a quality experience and to make a powerful impact in the St. Louis community,” she said.
Oros hopes that Wash. U. students will take with them the knowledge they gain from working with the homeless off campus and make a lifelong commitment to combating poverty.
Oros’ drop-in hours are from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays in DUC 250.