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Seventh-grader Michael Murray leads a new club that supports the Oregon Food Bank

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego Junior High School seventh-grader and Hunger Fighters director Michael Murray delivers a presentation on his groups latest campaign at a December meeting.“Will you stand for hunger?”

That’s the motto for the Lake Oswego Junior High School Hunger Fighters’ campaign this year, and the group’s director, Michael Murray, answers the question through his actions.

“You see a homeless person, and you look the other way. We want to change that,” said Michael, a seventh-grader.

Just a couple weeks ago, Michael visited the Oregon Food Bank, dropping off 427 cans and $450, donations collected via the Hunger Fighters’ fundraising projects this fall.

Hunger Fighters is “dedicated to ending hunger in Oregon by meeting every week to discuss how we can raise food and money to donate to the Oregon Food Bank,” he said.

This month, he hopes to raise awareness about the one-year-old club he founded through school assemblies Jan. 17-19, when the 12-year-old will deliver a PowerPoint presentation.

“We’re trying to make this as simple as possible and as powerful as possible,” he told other students during a Hunger Fighters meeting in December.

The group also is selling T-shirts with the Hunger Fighters logo — a plate and knife and fork — and the words “I won’t stand for hunger.” In the past, the club has held a project called “$10 for Life,” in which they distributed fliers showing that $10 can feed a family of four for three to five days. The group also goes door to door to ask for donations.

Yet when it comes to community outreach, Michael has a particular demographic in mind. He said students need to be informed about hunger issues and that they need to be empowered to make a difference.

“We want to really focus on encouraging our generation, our age level,” he said. “We can make a difference because it doesn’t only take adults to do that. ... It’s hard to realize at such a young age what we need to accomplish.”Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Seventh-graders Morne Wolmarans (left) and Amy Park discuss details concerning the Hunger Fighters latest campaign during a recent meeting.

He already is inspiring his fellow classmates. The Hunger Fighters has 20 members, including Daniel Oh, an LOJ seventh-grader and the club’s website manager.

Daniel, 12, said he’s learned more about hunger already because he is researching articles to post facts on the club’s website, discovering that many people in Oregon need help and that “hunger is real.”

About 270,000 Oregonians per month eat meals from emergency food boxes; of that number, 92,000 are children, according to the Oregon Food Bank. The nonprofit organization provides services that include advocating for public policy that benefits low-income people, teaching low-income people how to grow food and stretch dollars while cooking healthy meals, and distributing emergency food to hunger relief agencies in Oregon and Clark County, Wash. For the third year in a row, the OFB Network provided more than one million emergency food boxes.

“A lot of people need help in Oregon, and we need to help them to survive hunger,” Daniel said.

Hunger Fighters is taking up the challenge. The club started because Michael likes to stay informed about current events. He watches the news and the “Today” show every morning over breakfast, and the hunger problem in Oregon soon came to his attention.

“Finally, one day I snapped a little, and I couldn’t take it anymore, all the problems in the world,” Michael said. “I wanted to make a difference, and I saw the opportunity that I had to do so.”

He spoke with Lake Oswego Junior High School Principal Robert Caplinger and with Karen Feuer, who teaches language arts/social studies, his favorite class. They helped him get started and have been incredibly supportive, Michael said.

“Mrs. Feuer is one of the best teachers, if not the best teacher, that I’ve ever had,” he said. “She’s looked at me in the past and said, ‘Michael, I’m here to help you do what you want and make a change.’”

Feuer oversees the club’s Tuesday-afternoon meetings.

“She is more than just a room supervisor,” Michael said. “She is really a guide, and she helps to advise us, and she really is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Feuer said she is proud of Michael and the other “positive, upbeat students” in Hunger Fighters.

“In forming this club, Michael has demonstrated remarkable initiative, organization and leadership,” she said. “As he would tell you, all of the Hunger Fighters are working hard to make a difference.”

By Jillian Daley
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