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Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies/Huskies Man Basketball on Flickr

Some of our best and brightest are also among our hungriest

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Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies/Huskies Man Basketball on Flickr
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies/Huskies Man Basketball on Flickr

My friend Bill just got home after graduating from college in the South. He misses it but he’s diving right in to bring some of that Southern hospitality to this neighborhood.

He’s organizing a food pantry for needy college students.

I’m sure that may shock those who presume that kids in college don’t go hungry. But a college basketball star left no doubt a few months ago.

Shabazz Napier became a first-round National Basketball Association draft pick recently after leading the University of Connecticut to the national championship. But in an interview during the tournament he told reporters that he often went to bed hungry.

The humiliated NCAA realized it had crossed the line and immediately changed its draconian student-aid rules to guarantee that student-athletes don’t have to endure hunger because feeding them would put their aid package over the allowable limit.

But if an All-America basketball player can go to bed hungry, what makes anyone think that this can’t happen to anybody else in a student body?

And then my friend Bill dropped the real bomb. “A lot of these kids aren’t just hungry; they’re also homeless.”

That’s right. As soon as the school year ends in May or early June, they have to scrounge around for a place to live until their dorm opens up again in the fall or their friends return and they share another 10-month lease on a house or apartment.

Some of America’s best and brightest are also some of America’s hungriest and loneliest. They are desperate and yet nobody knows about it.

Well, not quite “nobody.” My friend Bill helped some Protestants to start that college food pantry, and now he hopes to do the same thing at a university not far from where we live.

Imagine for a moment that there are hungry students at Gonzaga, or Whitworth, or Washington State or Eastern Washington universities? Never mind what that means for those kids. My question: What does that mean for the rest of us?

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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