Students gathered at UC Davis this weekend to participate in the 2009 West Coast Student Conference on Hunger and Homelessness.

The three-day symposium, sponsored by the National Student Campaign Against Homelessness and Hunger, included an agenda awash with panels, workshops and discussions surrounding destitution in the United States. Several UCSB members of CalPIRG – a campus organization concerned with public interest problems – attended the event.

CalPIRG intern Travis Graves said the purpose of the conference was to motivate and organize the nation’s youth in order to end transience in America. The United States, Graves said, suffers from a unique brand of homelessness.

“Unlike in other countries, there’s an abundance of food in America, but also an overwhelming number of homeless individuals,” Graves, a fourth-year English and Spanish double major, said. “The main motivation for having the conference is to bring people together and understand the face of homelessness in America. It gives student organizers an idea how we can help, how we can get organized and what kind of programs we can put together.”

According to Graves, students from nearly every UC, including three from UCSB, were in attendance.

Felicia Tripa, a first-year English major, said she visited UC Davis this past weekend in hopes of gaining information and insight from the large array of workshops and speakers at the conference.

The convention was successful, Tripa said, because it provided students with creative ways to organize their CalPIRG chapters in order to effectively combat hunger and vagrancy.

“[The National Hunger Conference] has been so helpful,” Tripa said. “I’m coming back to UCSB right now with so many great ideas on how we can better our chapter and find ways to actually make things happen.”

Anh Tran, a first-year global studies major, said the convention functioned as a poverty think-tank. The individuals who participated in the event, she said, gained critical knowledge about how to reduce poverty levels.

“The point is to get the students inspired and to really get students aware of issues that wouldn’t necessarily be exposed,” Tran said. “It just generated a lot of ideas to apply for when we return to UCSB.”

According to a NSCAHH release, the workshops provided at the conference included ‘Getting Congress to Listen to You,’ ‘Organizing a Successful Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week’ and ‘How to Generate Media to End Poverty.’

According to Graves and Tripa, the West Coast National Hunger Conference is a prelude to the Annual Hunger Cleanup, a national event scheduled for April 18. The campaign will sponsor various fundraisers at local Isla Vista restaurants and will also facilitate meal services and food drives.