This course is designed to deepen our understanding of hunger and homelessness in the United States, mainly as a consequence of severe poverty.  Through classroom study and field experi­ences, we will explore the social, economic, and political causes of these prob­lems.  I have organized the course around five core questions:

  1. What is life like for the hungry, the homeless, and the near-homeless in the U.S?
  2. How many homeless and near-homeless are there?
  3. What are the major and minor causes of homelessness and hunger?
  4. What are individuals, small organizations, and governments doing to help?  What can they do to help?
  5. What does it take to solve these problems?  What can governments, organizations, and private citizens contribute?

The course combines in-class and out-of-class work in unusual ways.  We will begin with an in-class overview, led both by the course leader and by student presentation teams.  We will then shift our learning to out-of-class activities of two types.  Working as research teams, we will seek answers to the core questions, using class time to process our out-of-class results.  Working individually, each student will volunteer time with a local agency aiding the hungry and homeless.  At the end of the semester, we will develop projects that draw on our experiences to teach others what we have learned.


Every course has both topical and instructional goals.  Topically, we will:

  • Familiarize ourselves with hunger and homelessness as social problems.
  • Increase our knowledge of the social, political, and economic causes of hunger and homelessness.
  • Learn how to develop and apply social science skills and knowledge to a concrete social issue.

Instructionally, we will:

  • Develop critical thinking and teamwork skills.
  • Learn how to teach others while learning ourselves.
  • Prepare ourselves for adult learning.

Please consult the discussion of “Pedagogy vs Andragogy” for more details on this course’s approach.


This is not a lecture course, nor is it primarily a seminar.  Instead, it is built around a series of individual and team-based activities that emphasize the following:

  • Team responsibility, with as much in-class discussion and interaction as possible
  • Absorbing, mastering, and synthesizing information
  • Working alongside professionals in the real world
  • Passing your knowledge on to others

This course meets the following University requirements:
Critiquing Power and Inequality (CPI: LAI)
Community Service Activity (CSAC: LAI and LAF)