Monday, June 20, 2016

Too Hungry to Study? Project: Food is On It

If you had to choose between feeding your family or going to class, what would you choose?

Project: Food is a new program coming to Vol State. The project is founded on the understanding that some students who struggle with providing food for themselves and their families often have to choose between the urgency of the here-and-now and the longer-term goals of working for a better future. The group of like-minded faculty and staff have been awarded a grant to explore and expand food initiatives at Volunteer State Community College. Project: Food hopes to identify students dealing with “food insecurity” and help meet those needs to increase student retention.

“Food insecure students reported lower GPAs, suggesting a negative correlation with academic performance,” Project: Food states in their grant proposal. They estimate that 56% of college students meet the category of “food insecure”. The group hopes to reach out to those students. They also plan to develop an emergency food bank on campus and create partnerships with other outreaches such as Second Harvest. Advisors and other staff will be trained to identify and assist students who need assistance.
Blueberries ripening in the
community garden
Project: Food also plans to add credit courses that focus on service-learning as well as undergraduate research opportunities to explore food issues. Initiatives to increase awareness of food issues include a continuation and expansion of “Food Day”, which had its first annual event in the Fall of 2015.

“We hosted Food Day on campus so students can see how one topic touches on so many different disciplines,” says Kelly Ormsby, English faculty at Vol State and one of the collaborators of Project: Food. “Food is a great way to bring people together; it’s about our backgrounds, being healthy, feeling good, weight goals – it touches on every major on campus.”

Ormsby goes even further, involving her English Composition classes in the subject of food.
Some of her students can earn credit by working in the garden if it ties into the topic of their papers.

Cucumber in its natural habitat
“Some of them have never seen a vegetable in that setting, growing in a garden. They’ve only seen them in grocery stores. We don't think about it as much as we should, how it grows, and our own personal effects on the world and the choices we make. I want to engage my students as citizens that effect the world.”

The grant names Dr. Lauren Collier (former Executive Assistant to the President), Dr. Emily Short, Heather Harper, Kelly Ormsby, Hilary Marabeti, and Dr. Kenny Yarbrough as Project: Food’s team members.

Comp I students in the community garden. (l to r) Alexis Betts,
Juli King, Kelly Ormsby, Meghan Coyle, Ian Ormsby

Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College. She also blogs for Vol State's Returning Adult Learners.

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