Student road trip explores how to combat food insecurity in children

For some students, summer means swimming, vacations, and barbecues. For eight members of OSU Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), it meant a road trip: a trip with a mission. They recently spent six weeks traversing the country and visiting 15 cities in an effort to combat food insecurity in children.

From left, Jenny Villalobos and Stephen Hodges talk with Sarah Cunningham, who operates the Oregon State University Food Bank out of Snell Hall on campus. Villalobos and Hodges took part in a month-long trip across the country, learning about food pantries. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

From left, Jenny Villalobos and Stephen Hodges talk with Sarah Cunningham, who operates the Oregon State University Food Bank out of Snell Hall on campus. Villalobos and Hodges took part in a month-long trip across the country, learning about food pantries. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

“The overall goal of the project while on the road was to explore innovative ways to end child hunger. The next step is to use those techniques locally,” said Sandy Neubaum, associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program and faculty adviser to SIFE.
Food insecurity – not having enough healthy food to thrive – affects 12.4 million children in the United States, a number that motivated the SIFE group to travel more than 6,000 miles to cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Raleigh, and Boise to learn about programs that were particularly innovative.

Project Preserve in Nashville, Tenn., for example, caught junior business major Dale McCauley’s eye.

“The Nashville project involved expired food that is flash-frozen and shipped across the nation,” he said. “It’s about how to get that food dispersed in a way that works better than the models that we’re used to. Maybe there is a better way than just tossing it all in a giant warehouse and having it distributed. We don’t know that yet, but we’re trying to find out.”

The team has already begun to think innovatively. In San Francisco, they rescued a van full of food left over from a conference they attended.

“All we did was ask a simple question: ‘What are you doing with this at the end of the conference?’” said junior Andrea White, OSU SIFE president. After a phone call to the police department, they found the last food bank in San Francisco open, and donated it.

The SIFE team was inspired by President Obama’s goal to end child hunger in the United States by 2015. OSU SIFE researched innovative hunger initiatives and child hunger around the country seeking to start an innovative initiative here in Corvallis.

The trip was made possible through sponsorships from various corporations. The students contacted companies that supported other SIFE teams and received cash, food, and hotel room donations.

Recently back from their trip, the students will create a hunger campaign of their own to raise 55,000 pounds of food – a pound for every Corvallis resident.
“In the fall, we’re going to kick off the food drive. Everybody has been really excited that we want to raise 55,000 pounds of food,” said Andrea White, SIFE president. The SIFE team also looks forward to continue their hunger awareness campaign across Oregon during this summer.

The group plans to use some of the creative techniques they picked up on their trip to make their own food drive successful, like using what they learned to develop a curriculum they will teach to Corvallis middle schools.

To see a slideshow featuring the group, go to http://poweredbyorange.com/2009/08/03/osu-students-in-free-enterprise-fight-hunger/

~Darryl Lai

Comments are closed.