Texas A&M University students of various majors recently arrived at the Food Bank for a field trip. Everything they learned about our warehouse, freezer, garden and kitchen and how we work with our Partner Agencies would help them fight hunger. The field trip wasn’t just a break from class; it was a learning experience to help them solve real problems our Partner Agencies are facing.
The field trip is part of Texas A&M’s Hunger-Free Texas Project. The Food Bank partnered with Texas A&M University in October to aid in this semester-long project that assigned undergraduate students to local food pantries to identify solutions to programmatic problems and barriers.
This initiative, which is part of a service learning class spearheaded by assistant professor Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam at Texas A&M, involved 120 undergraduates from industrial distribution, sociology, and computer technology management backgrounds.
The students worked together with their assigned pantries to identify problems and develop attainable solutions that would impact their designated pantries.
The Food Bank was just one stop as part of the student’s service-learning class. To get a better understanding of hunger in Central Texas and different issues our food pantries and clients face; the students visited our Partner Agency Micah 6, where Executive Director Barry Smith allowed students to role-play as actual clients picking up food.
To learn more about food insecurity in their assigned pantries’ locations, students also looked at factors like geographic location, ethnicity, income level and health conditions, that affect families’ access to food.
After touring several food pantries, the Food Bank, learning about hunger and working with their assigned food pantries, students presented their final project at the Inaugural Community Engagement and Impact Summit. The top projects would receive grants from the Food Bank to implement their solutions at the pantries.
Twenty student groups who worked with 15 food pantries presented solutions to issues pantries face: logistics, food and nutrition, process optimization and client processing.
Staff from the Food Bank, the Brazos Valley Food Bank, Twin City Mission and Texas A&M faculty judged projects on the feasibility, creativity and impact on local community each would have.
And the winners are…
Academic and Community Engagement Award Winner
Group 12 (Caritas of Waco, Agency Mentor: Buddy Edwards)
Trevor Bartz, Celine Jacques, Emily Kenny, Christine Sanford
Community Impact Award Winner ($10,000)
Group 16 (Hutto Community Food Pantry, Agency Mentor: Connie Gooding)
Cody Cooper, Patricia Dossett, Mathew Romanchuk, Rosario Vega-Tirado
Community Impact Award Runner-up ($5000)
Group 6 (Helping Hands Ministry of Belton, Agency Mentor: Tasha Roberts)
Daniels Mengual Avero, Lauren Powers, Shelby Schlesselman, Carter Shults
Community Impact Award Runner-up ($3500)
Group 20 (Micah 6, Agnecy Mentor: Barry Smith)
Blake Broussard, Mateo Camacho, Ricardo Duenez, Kyle Gardner, Kelsie Warren
Community Impact Award Runner-up ($500)
Group 19 (Covenant UMC Pantry, Agency Mentor: Dan Schultz)
Allison Reese, Peter Muller, Lukas Vogt, Patrick Wylie.
Congratulations to all the winners! We’re excited to see the students’ projects come to life and make a difference for our neighbors facing hunger. Thank you to everyone who participated and worked on Project Hunger Free Texas.
Photo by: Wei Lu