Before moving to Auburn for college, Candace Mulherin, senior in marketing, was working at her church’s homeless ministry. There she developed a passion for hunger and poverty that she would later bring to Auburn.
That passion is now the foundation of her Miss Homecoming platform.
Mulherin’s platform focuses on bringing awareness to food insecurity on Auburn’s campus and in the surrounding community, emphasizing that there are many students who struggle daily wondering where their next meal will come from.
“It’s really easy to go through life and be not necessarily ashamed, but closed off to your problems and thinking that you can do it all on your own,” Mulherin said. “But as an Auburn Family, we are all together, and everyone’s joys are everyone else’s joys, and everyone’s problems are everyone else’s problems. We can stand hand in hand and do it together.”
Mulherin, who is a student recruiter and was nominated by YoungLife, said she plans to partner with the Division of Student Affairs and its Auburn Cares program, which provides an on-campus food pantry in the Student Center to give students struggling with food insecurity a place to go for help.
“This is a factor of campus that a lot of people don’t realize,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that there are a lot of resources devoted toward helping those students.”
The on-campus food pantry is run on an honor system and students can go there if they don’t know where they are going to find their next meal. Students can tell the staffers at the food pantry how they are struggling, and they will find them the things they need from the food pantry.
“That way they can get the things they need without feeling ashamed or isolated, but, at the same time, most people don’t even know that we have a free campus food pantry,” Mulherin said.
Mulherin said she believes that once more people realize the food pantry is there — and that it’s okay to ask for help — more donations will come and more people will be able to utilize the food pantry. She plans to spend her week campaigning on the concourse and raising awareness to the issue.
“I know that I can’t conquer it all in one week, but the main thing I am trying to do is just advocate and help break the stigma that it’s okay to be a hungry college student. It’s not okay that you only have $7 to eat with for a month,” Mulherin said.
After taking a hunger studies class as part of her nonprofit studies minor, Mulherin said she became even more aware of food insecurity on campus. The capstone hunger studies class surveyed 900-1,000 Auburn students who were juniors, seniors and graduate students, she said. At least 300 of them responded with the symptoms of food insecurity without even knowing it.
“Food insecurity can come in different shapes and sizes, but this meant that a third of that population was struggling and was hungry but they don’t know that they fall into that category so they don’t know that they have the ability to ask for help,” she said. “There are so many people in our community and on our campus that need help.”
Mulherin said she doesn’t want to stop with Miss Homecoming, either. After working with Camp War Eagle over the summer, she said she realized she has a passion for higher education and administration.
“I want to bring something like my platform to other schools and make it a better-known issue,” Mulherin said. “Being able to share my platform with the Auburn community is really awesome, but it’s also something that I could see myself doing on a professional level.”
A previous version of this article had Candace's name misspelled in the headline. We deeply regret the error.