Fighting a Hidden Hunger: Remembering Marc Abrahms

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Marc C. Abrahms, a kind and generous man with a long connection to this university, earlier this month. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Abrahms in 2013 for a story entitled “Fighting a Hidden Hunger,” which details his commitment to helping the hungry, a commitment that he brought to GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus. The story, which predates this blog, is from the summer 2013 issue of Impact magazine and is reprinted here in the hope that it might inspire others.

Gray Turner


 

Fighting a Hidden Hunger

When was the last time you went truly hungry? How frequently, if ever, have you been forced to sacrifice meals to keep a roof over your head? For some students at the George Washington University, the answer might be “too recently” and “too often,” but one long-time friend of the university is working to change that.

A passionate philanthropist who has been involved with GW for over 20 years, Marc C. Abrahms created the Abrahms Family Fund with gifts totaling nearly $150,000 to help students struggling with hunger. The endowment will provide emergency grants of $500 or more each academic year to GW students who need funds to purchase food.

“A meaningful percentage of Americans, of every age, have inadequate food at some point during the year,” says Mr. Abrahms. “Sadly, more than 25 million Americans are in need of private charitable food assistance. Hunger doesn’t give you a break just because you’re a college student.”

The fight against hunger is not a new one for Mr. Abrahms; he has been helping those suffering from hunger near his home in Hartford, Connecticut, by cooking and serving over 42,000 meals since 2010. Much of the food he prepares feeds students after school. He says that the difference in the outlook and scholastic performance of a well-fed student is palpably higher compared to those that struggle to find their next meal.

A Culinary Commitment: Read more on how Marc Abrahms is fighting hunger near his home in Hartford.

In 2010, a friend told Marc Abrahms about the amazing things being done to feed the hungry at House of Bread in Hartford, Connecticut. His first day there he met a man and his young son standing in line for the only available meal of the day. It was a frigid winter day with temperatures in the single digits, and the father and son shared a single glove between them.

“He had a house and a job, but lost it all,” Mr. Abrahms remembers. “So many people are affected by circumstances beyond their control. I felt moved to volunteer and help out and do whatever I could to help.”

He has been cooking meals at his home and delivering them to House of Bread ever since. His specialties include beef stew and a meat sauce for pasta that he slow cooks for 14 hours. The homestyle meals, which Mr. Abrahms makes from only fresh herbs and other ingredients, are a big hit among the people who frequent House of Bread.

“The workers and volunteers recognize me as ‘meat sauce man’ now,” he laughs. “But I’m still not doing as good a job as needs to be done. The number of hungry people is extraordinary, and truly sad.”

Mr. Abrahms adds that many people volunteer to help but never follow through with their commitment and that despite their best intentions, one day of service doesn’t scratch the surface of fixing the problem of hunger. “We can do better,” he says.

“Students that are hungry cannot learn at their maximum potential,” Mr. Abrahms says. “The circumstances for a person, especially a young person trying to get an education, can change suddenly. A college student can quickly find themselves in a precarious situation when a parent or family member helping to fund their school is unexpectedly jobless. All of a sudden they’re without food and core resources.”

Rising tuition costs and a tough economy present new challenges for many college students and their families as college bills come in, leading to a little-known but growing population of financially stressed students who are facing hunger.

“Hunger on [a college] campus is part of a lingering national problem that grew after the financial crisis that began in late 2007,” reads a 2012 article from Inside Higher Ed, a daily publication focusing on higher education topics. “In an unforgiving economy, many students across the country struggle not only to pay tuition but also to buy food.”

While the full extent of college student hunger nationally may be hard to capture, locally-conducted research speaks volumes to the level of need. A study conducted by faculty at the City University of New York system in 2010 found that 39 percent of surveyed students had either skipped meals, gone hungry for lack of money, or been unable to afford balanced meals in the last year.

Washington, DC, like New York City, ranks among the top ten U.S. cities with the highest cost of living in 2013, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. With tuition and the high cost of housing as often the first priorities for students, meals are too often sacrificed. When Mr. Abrahms, understanding this dilemma, decided to create a fund to help college students with a food need, the George Washington University was a logical choice.

Marc Abrahms

Marc Abrahms

Marc Abrahms is no stranger to GW. His late mother, Phyllis Blumenthal Abrahms, AA ’39, BA ’41, and brother, Eliot Abrahms, MD ’74, were both GW graduates, but his personal relationship with the university didn’t blossom until President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg took the university’s highest office in 1988.

“I knew Stephen from his time as president at the University of Hartford,” he says. “He helped GW make great strides towards becoming the university it is today, a destination location and one of the best institutions of higher education in the world. I wanted to be a part of that experience; be a part of what it is being done at George Washington.”

An ardent supporter of GW since 1990, Mr. Abrahms served on the GW Medical Center Advisory Council from 1993-1996 and has helped to fund several initiatives at the university – including the Great Hall in the Marvin Center, GW’s campus community center in Foggy Bottom, in honor of his late parents and brother. The Abrahms Family Fund is another step in his commitment to the mission and students of the George Washington University.

“Most people might not realize what a problem hunger can be on a college campus,” says Mr. Abrahms. “This fund was created to help the young people at the George Washington University who are too often forced to face this issue on their own.”

Mr. Abrahms has committed to ensuring that the Abrahms Family Fund will continue to support GW students in need well past his lifetime by establishing a charitable remainder trust, which will substantially support this special fund after his death.

“I’m involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors, but GW has a unique spot in my heart,” he says. “It’s a world with a lot of needs that we live in, but my hope is that the students who benefit from this fund will go out and have an impact on the world and do their best to improve it.”
Sidebar
In 2010, a friend told Marc Abrahms about the amazing things being done to feed the hungry at House of Bread in Hartford, Connecticut. His first day there he met a man and his young son standing in line for the only available meal of the day. It was a frigid winter day with temperatures in the single digits, and the father and son shared a single glove between them.

“He had a house and a job, but lost it all,” Mr. Abrahms remembers. “So many people are affected by circumstances beyond their control. I felt moved to volunteer and help out and do whatever I could to help.”

He has been cooking meals at his home and delivering them to House of Bread ever since. His specialties include beef stew and a meat sauce for pasta that he slow cooks for 14 hours. The homestyle meals, which Mr. Abrahms makes from only fresh herbs and other ingredients, are a big hit among the people who frequent House of Bread.

“The workers and volunteers recognize me as ‘meat sauce man’ now,” he laughs. “But I’m still not doing as good a job as needs to be done. The number of hungry people is extraordinary, and truly sad.”

Mr. Abrahms adds that many people volunteer to help but never follow through with their commitment and that despite their best intentions, one day of service doesn’t scratch the surface of fixing the problem of hunger. “We can do better,” he says.


Help continue Marc Abrahms’ mission of fighting hunger on GW’s campus—make a gift today or learn more about this fund by contacting Jane Kolson at jkolson@gwu.edu or 202-994-9523.

 

Author: GW Impact

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