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UCLA Wesley Foundation focuses on hunger justice to ‘Change the World’


By Barbara Dunlap-Berg

Students from the Wesley Foundation at UCLA visit with director Jeanne Rod Smith after a Meals with Hope event.
Students from the Wesley Foundation at UCLA visit with director Jeanne Rod Smith after a Meals with Hope event.

"Change the World" weekend is not new to the University of California, Los Angeles campus of more than 41,000 students. However, said Jeanne Rod Smith, campus minister and director of the UCLA Wesley Foundation, 2013 is "the first time we are doing something across the California-Pacific Annual Conference, in partnership with district events focusing on hunger."

A part of the Rethink Church initiative of United Methodist Communications, "Change the World" weekend is May 18-19. The global event encourages congregations to go outside their walls to share the love of Jesus Christ. At UCLA, it's about extending the reach of the huge campus.

"We are working with local hunger ministries to bring visibility to food justice concerns," Smith said. "There will be an event in Orange County entitled Hunger Awareness Sunday."

Food justice for students and families is an ongoing ministry of the Wesley Foundation, which works with Kardia United Methodist Church in Los Angeles in its monthly Meals with Hope outreach.

"We prepare, serve and share food with people in the neighborhood who are homeless, day laborers or experiencing food shortages," Smith said. Students share conversation as welS as scritures and reflections in English and Spanish with the guests. She wants to connect the ministry with "Change the World and, at the least, will publicize Meals with Hope and encourage churches to support it.

Café combats hunger

The Wesley Foundation's 580 Café has addressed hunger and food justice concerns for three years. It began with a request from the vice chancellor in UCLA's student affairs office seeking assistance for students experiencing food/hunger issues, both on campus and in their homes.

Partnering with churches, alumni, neighbors, food banks and businesses, Smith said, the ministry offers hot meals twice a week, and snacks, fruit, sandwiches and other ready-to-eat options Monday through Friday. Students also identify community resources on or near campus for students who need food over the weekend.

"This is an incredible way to 'offer them Christ' by sharing our resources, community and concern," she said. Few students who use Café 580 have United Methodist ties. They "are surprised to find that we offer them not only food, but also a space to relax, study and explore their beliefs and traditions with respect and courtesy to all."

A United Methodist deaconess, Smith sees participating in "Change the World" as an excellent way to draw people into the church.

College students have enormous enthusiasm and passion for social justice, she observed

"Many of our students come from underserved, underrepresented communities," she said. "Their enthusiasm, care and compassion are inspiring, as they share what they have experienced personally and what they are learning at the university about creating cultures of respect, grace and access."

Barbara Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

Involve young adults in 'Change the World'

While mid-May is time for finals or graduation on many campuses, possibilities for outreach are available year-round. These ministries often appeal to young adults.

  • Imagine No Malaria,
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters,
  • CROP Hunger Walks,
  • Habitat for Humanity,
  • Society of St. Andrew,
  • Stop Hunger Now,
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief kits,

Register your church for the 2013 weekend

How can your congregation be part of the fourth annual "Change the World" weekend, May 18 and 19?

  • Identify the on-going outreach missions you would like to highlight this year. Set an achievable goal for expanding the number of people serving and being served.
  • Begin planning an event to highlight your mission opportunities May 18 and19.

Find more ideas and register at Click on "Change the World."