Using Superheroes and Comic Books to Fight Hunger in the Twin Cities

What happens when a geek is in charge of of a nonprofit neighborhood community center? Hunger-Con is what happens. And it’s this weekend.

Let me rewind a little here. Or, better yet, I’ll let Jonathan Palmer, executive director of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul, MN give you the 411:

The concept for Hunger-Con was to take the idea of a convention atmosphere like CONvergence or MCBA ComiCons and wrap it around grassroots community organizing to address important issues. What we’re trying to do is combine social activism with fandom so that people can have fun while making a difference. If you can “be a hero in the fight against hunger” how great is that?

Jonathan Palmer representing the HQB center in the March Campaign

Jonathan Palmer representing the HQB center in the March Campaign

Every Spring, the Hallie Q. Brown Center participates in Minnesota FoodShare’s March Campaign. The March Campaign is the largest and most important community fundraiser for Hallie Q. Brown’s Food Shelf. In no small part because of the March Campaign, Hallie Q. Brown’s Food Shelf continues to provide quality, fresh, healthy food to neighbors in need. Palmer explains, “People don’t realize how important an issue hunger is. It affects our kids, our families, our whole community, and we try to think outside of the box when helping people and addressing the issue. We have pet food so people don’t have to choose between feeding their family and giving up a furry member of the family. We setup special times for homeless youth to access it. And we do themes like Hallie’s Heroes and Hunger-Con. Sometimes tried and true works, but sometimes you’ve got to break the fourth wall and do something new.”

Here’s where the grassroots social activism and geek culture really collide in the most wonderful of ways. The Hallie Q. Brown Center has developed an entire comic book-themed, superhero narrative through which to get kids and their community excited about raising money and food donations to support the March Campaign and their food shelf. Everyone who contributes to the cause is part of the superhero team “Hallie’s Heroes”, lead by Captain HQB. Together they fight the forces of H.U.N.G.E.R. (Hindering Upstanding Neighbors Giving Efforts and Resources) and and their villainous leader, Professor Poverty, who has his own Facebook page and Twitter, @ProfPoverty.

Palmer as Captain HQB (Who seems to base his costume off another American hero…)

Captain HQB helps"Hallie's Heroes" deliver donations to the Food Shelf

Captain HQB helps “Hallie’s Heroes” deliver donations to the Food Shelf

Palmer notes how this is not only a fun way to engage the youth of the community on this important issue, but that it is also a sort of interactive morality play, straight from the pages of comic books. “One of the funniest parts has been creating the heroes and the villains for this because it really gets kids engaged. When Professor Poverty shows up at the schools that have done food drives, you should see the kids get excited to chase him away. It bonds them together and teaches a lesson about right and wrong that everyone can embrace.”

Professor Poverty is thwarted in his attempts to steal food donations from a school food drive.

Professor Poverty is thwarted in his attempts to steal food donations from a Twin Cities school food drive.

After an entire month of the Hallie Q. Brown Center rallying “Hallie’s Heroes” to raise awareness about hunger in the community and be leaders in the fight against it, the community center throws a big party to celebrate all they’ve accomplished, and to provide more geek-themed community enrichment. That party is Hunger-Con!

This year’s Hunger-Con will be held on Saturday, April 2nd 2016 from 12:30-4:30pm at:

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center
270 Kent St, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102

The event is free to all Twin Cities families and includes:

  • Superheroes & Villains from Minnesota Superheroes United
  • Star Wars Characters from the Central Garrison – 501st Legion
  • Activities for kids like face painting, drawing, make your own hero cape, and interactive games
  • Comic books
  • Superhero exhibits
  • Prizes and giveaways
  • Food truck and treats
  • Costumes are encouraged (but not required)

Suggested (NOT REQUIRED) donation of one food item per person.

Some local professional comic book talent has even jumped in to support. Christopher Jones, Minneapolis-based artist for Marvel, DC, and other comics publishers, will be at Hunger-Con from 1:30-2:30pm to lead kids in a superhero drawing demo. He has also illustrated Captain HQB getting the better of Professor Poverty—now wouldn’t this make a fun comic book?

Captain HQB and Professor Poverty by Christopher Jones

Captain HQB and Professor Poverty by Christopher Jones


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