Carroll's "Zach Attack" on Hunger

Author: Tim Muma

Published Date: 2/7/2024

Categories: Alumni University News

Zach Trafton '16 (left) and Zachary Staszewski '11
It's challenging to uphold Carroll University's Ethos of respect, integrity and stewardship in the "real world." But if you were going to choose a mission within your career that gives you a chance to succeed in those areas every day, fighting food insecurity is a noble cause. Despite filling diverse roles in different locations, alumni Zach Trafton '16 and Zachary Staszewski '11 are making an impact, becoming Carroll's Zach Attack on Hunger.
Both grads began working in other industries before latching on with vital anti-hunger organizations in southeastern Wisconsin. Staszewski is now the creative and marketing manager at Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, while Trafton serves as part of the Program and Facilities Support Staff at the Food Pantry Serving Waukesha County. Before finding his way into that role, he felt unfulfilled working for a bank, but another experience inspired him to make a change.
"I had volunteered here (food pantry) on some weeknights, and I really enjoyed the energy and the mission of what we were doing for the community, " Trafton recalled with a smile. "I reached out, and they had an opening. It was kind of fate. Now it's awesome to live and work in the same community where we help those in need."
The Food Pantry Serving Waukesha County provides free groceries to Waukesha County residents who need assistance. Trafton mainly handles unloading food trucks, sorting edible items into categories and ensuring everything is properly displayed and stocked. But there are times when other roles need to be filled, so Trafton is happy to lend a hand in different areas.
"Those are the times I get face-to-face interaction with clients, get to know them, hear their stories and build that relationship."
Those often heartbreaking stories, told by people from all walks of life, are essential to hear. That is where Staszewski's skills come into play for Hunger Task Force. He wants people to recognize that hunger and food insecurity aren't theoretical issues; real lives are at stake with people who need donations and support.
"Through creative work, I try to help people understand the work we're doing here and the need people have across the state," Staszewski said. "There's a lot of work with children, seniors and families, and our goal is to show others the experiences, truth and faces of hunger. No one should go hungry; we believe food is a human right."
Hunger Task Force prides itself as Milwaukee's only free and local food bank while also looking to create a hunger-free Wisconsin through donations and advocacy to promote state and federal policies that help to feed even more residents.
"People don't often realize the prevalence of hunger. All backgrounds and demographics are impacted, and one in 10 Wisconsinites are facing hunger," Staszewski explains. "There's a big stigma with food insecurity that people aren't doing what they need to do to support their families. Sometimes people just can't make ends meet."
Both Zachs described how rising prices, medical bills, and other unforeseen circumstances put residents in situations they never expected to be in. Just like anyone in need, they are hopeful for a bit of support to pick them up and get started on their way to brighter days. It's similar to how both alums feel about how Carroll prepared them for these careers. Staszewski even worked at Carroll for a few years, but his first stint at the university jumpstarted everything.
"I was really involved as a student: orientation mentor, student senator, in theater and music," Staszewski said. “It allowed me to diversify my skill set and hone in on the professional, social and interpersonal skills I use every day now in my career."
Trafton explained how he felt an even greater sense of self while at Carroll, helping him figure out, "Who you are and what you want to do with your life."
"It helped me formulate that I wanted to do a job that served others," said Trafton. "Really, the Cross-Cultural Experience was one of the more impactful things during my time at Carroll. We went to Alaska to study the Native American experience there. It was great to get out of my bubble, learn about others and widen my worldview, leading me down the road to where I am today."
While they might not solve southeastern Wisconsin's food insecurity and hunger problems in this lifetime, Zach and Zachary play crucial roles in the fight and living out the Carroll Ethos as best they can.
"It's something that people take for granted. You don't think of the simple thing of having food on your table at every meal," Trafton added. "That's one of the core things everybody needs, and it's super fulfilling to help others with those basic needs."
"At the end of the day, one of our core values is dignity," said Staszewski. "All the work we're doing comes back to that authentic, true approach to feeding people with dignity, treating people with dignity and making sure they can live dignified lives."
You can visit the Food Pantry Serving Waukesha County and the Hunger Task Force websites if you want to provide food to either location, donate monetarily or volunteer.
Panoramic View of campus