A United Nations World Food Program initiative has expanded its campus ambassador program to UT-Austin.
The ShareTheMeal initiative, a crowdfunding smartphone application that fights global hunger, started the program in November. Ambassadors organize campus teams on the app, create fundraising challenges for the team and organize events to inform students on the issues the World Food Program is combating.
The app uses Google Pay and Apple Pay, allowing people to donate money to people affected by hunger crises around the world, such as South Sudanese refugees and Palestinian children.
Ivana Jelenszky, ShareTheMeal ambassador and public relations junior, learned about the initiative through social media. Jelenszky created the UT team, a GoFundMe page and an Instagram page to spread the word about ShareTheMeal. Jelenszky has been involved with nonprofits for several years, but said ShareTheMeal is more innovative with technology than the nonprofits she has worked for in the past.
“The app is a social innovation,” Jelenszky said. “To get that money to another country so quickly without any fees, it’s so easy. Just a tap on your phone and the money will be in someone’s plate as a form of food.”
ShareTheMeal is currently fundraising to aid the food shortage in Yemen. The World Food Program reported that 18 million inhabitants face food insecurity in Yemen. Each meal the World Food Program provides costs 50 cents. So far, the UT team has collected 2,257 meals on the app. Their goal is 100,000 meals.
ShareTheMeal marketing director Adriana Sahagun said she has been recruiting younger people because of the work she had seen students such as Jelenszky do.
“We really believe that this is the generation that can end hunger,” Sahagun said. “This generation has been criticized a lot that maybe they are self-centered or selfish, but we truly believe those stereotypes are not true. This generation has power, and they are motivated to make a change.”
Jelenszky’s efforts are already attracting the attention of her peers. Marketing junior Mariana Chavira reached out to Jelenszky with an interest to help raise funds. Chavira now regularly asks for donations on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to help aid the food crisis in Yemen.
“The Yemen food crisis is the world’s largest hunger crisis, and it seems to be overlooked,” Chavira said. “Through ShareTheMeal, we are doing what we can to help relieve the pressure caused by the war by raising awareness of the situation and encouraging everyone to help.”