My time participating in undergraduate research has been eye opening and very positive. Before beginning my project, “Hungry Hearts & Minds—Creating A Food Exchange Platform at Pace University”, I was not aware of how persistent and prevalent food insecurity is for college students. What I did know is that I had experienced basic needs insecurity throughout my academic career, and that I had more privilege than many students entering their undergraduate degree. Therefore, I was fairly certain that if I was dealing with these issues, a decent amount of my peers were as well. Unfortunately, I learned that food insecurity is an extremely insidious and present conflict for many college students. Additionally, I learned that a food redistribution program at Pace University would at least begin to help alleviate the negative effects of food insecurity for students.
Most of the research work I did involved analyzing prior literature and studies concerning food insecurity for college students. What I found most definitely demonstrated a need for programs addressing food insecurity on college campuses. My research goes through presentations of literature concerning hunger and basic needs insecurity for students. My research also explored the different ways universities have addressed food waste, food sustainability, and food insecurity in attempts to help their student body. I found that food redistribution is the only solution that addresses both food waste management, and food insecurity for students. It is for that reason that I believe Pace University would greatly benefit from adopting a food redistribution program.
One school that has already incorporated food redistribution into their efforts to alleviate food insecurity is Fresno State. A program at Pace University could potentially follow their model of an app, which alerts students when there is leftover and safe food from university catered events. Additionally, Suffolk University in Boston has a similar program, where students can sign up to receive text alerts when there is extra food at a university event. The next step in my research initiative would be to get in contact with one or both of these schools to inquire about the challenges they faced and their process in setting up the programs. A food redistribution program would truly help students at Pace facing hunger. A program like this would also help student retention and enrollment.
Overall, this project required commitment on my part, not just in time, but also in emotional availability. Throughout this process I have focused on respectfully and carefully representing an issue that hits close to home for myself, and many of my peers. This was not a project I could have done halfway; it wouldn’t have felt ethical. Thankfully, I have had full support from my faculty mentors Erin Furey and Emmett Griffith. I am so grateful to Emmett for jumping right into the tail end of my work with me, and assisting me in finishing this project strong. In conclusion, I am so honored to have been able to do this work with faculty and administration support. Now, I hope we can move forward in challenging food insecurity here at Pace, through further research and development of a food redistribution program.
For my student faculty research project, “Hungry Hearts & Minds – Creating a Food Exchange Platform at Pace University”, I have completed a literature review that outlines prior research done on food insecurity for undergraduate students. The literature review also explores how universities and other institutions have enacted food redistribution programs. Overall, the paper sets up a need for actionable items (specifically a food redistribution program) related to alleviating food insecurity for students at Pace University.
In order to finish the literature review and edit it, I had to employ some problem solving skills. For example, I had initially planned to end the paper with a call-to-action-type declaration that would encourage readers to rally for a food redistribution program at Pace. However, when I began writing this heated and passionate conclusion, I found that it read as immature and overtly emotional. In order to modify the conclusion appropriately, I had to take on the perspective of an administrator reading my paper. I then decided that the most effective way to end the piece would be an overview of the facts I highlighted in the body of the paper, as well as a connection to the legacy of Pace University being innately tied to servicing student needs. This new call-to-action was presented more professionally and subtly.
The ongoing support of my faculty mentor has certainly aided in the editing and finalizing process of my paper. Erin Furey’s dedication to the project and the issue it addresses continues to inspire my work. As a result of her assistance and my own commitment to ending basic needs insecurity for young people, I have not encountered many challenges throughout my time working on the project. I would say that the main drawback in the process of collecting this data and analyzing it, has been my own personal connection to food insecurity. However, I am always uplifted when I recognize the potential for good that research on basic needs insecurity has. So far, I have learned from this project to efficiently manage my time when delving into literature. Despite how lengthy the process of careful data collection (from prior research) can be, it has certainly paid off in my analysis.
So far, for my student faculty research project, I have compiled some scholarly articles and analyzed them for my eventual literature review. I have also begun to write abstracts for each article to begin the process of writing what will be in the review. Throughout this process I have had to employ some problem solving skills when it came to deciding which articles to include in our project. I had to find articles that were in line with our project’s goals, textually rich, and articles that contained evidence relevant to our objectives.
Without a strong initiative and dedication to the project, and food insecurity in general, I don’t believe I would have been able to make the connections that I’ve arrived at for the betterment of the project. Additionally, the support and guidance that my faculty mentor, Erin Furey has given me, has enhanced my research experience, and the overall content of the research project. With teamwork in mind, we’ve been able to communicate effectively what our needs are, throughout the past few months. I have been able to let her know if I’m struggling with an element of the research, and I’ve been able to share with her what I have been working on.
Our collaboration has created an environment where I am able to work efficiently, and ask for help when I need it. I am very grateful for Erin’s commitment to the research work, and the topic at hand. Overall, the data I have obtained thus far, has supported my initial notion that there is a need for actionable items surrounding food insecurity at Pace University, and Universities at large. I have also found a disappointing, but unsurprising correlation between student’s minority status, and basic needs insecurity. In fact, in a Wisconsin Hope Lab piece, it was found that nonbinary students had an extremely high rate of food insecurity compared with self-described binary female, and binary male students. (Wisconsin Hope Lab)
It is not uncommon to find research pertaining to the specific vulnerable status of LGBTQIA+ individuals relating to basic needs insecurity. Some of the reasons this group experiences disproportionate levels of food insecurity are structural oppression, separation or disownment from birth family, and work place harassment. As a low-income, nonbinary college student, these findings are especially troubling. I hope that through our continual research and future activism, we will be able to reduce the risk of basic needs insecurity for queer students.
Food insecurity and sustainability are concepts that are most likely familiar to individuals living in New York City. The United States, on a broader scale, has a grave issue with feeding all citizens safe and nutritious food. In fact, a government study published in 2017 found that 1 in 6 Americans goes hungry. As a college student who has experienced food insecurity, I have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of my peers. My commitment to supporting other low-income college students, is a part of the reason why I am thrilled to be working on a research project that explores food insecurity for University students, and seeks a pragmatic solution for students at Pace university.
I am working on this research project with Erin Furey of the LGBTQ and Social Justice Center. Our endeavor is entitled, “Hungry Hearts & Minds – Creating a Food Exchange Platform at Pace University.” The purpose of our project is to enact a pragmatic solution to the problem of student hunger on campus, which will be backed by our research and findings. We are exploring actionable concepts that would make redistribution of leftover food on campus (typically wasted) a reality.
Throughout this process, I expect to learn more about the immense impact food insecurity has on students. In one of the studies I’ve begun to delve into, the author states that, “Researchers have found associations between basic needs insecurity and poorer self-reported physical health, symptoms of depression, and higher perceived stress.” (Wisconsin Hope Lab) These findings come as no surprise to me, as I’ve often been more fatigued from a lack of accessible nutritious food, as well as stressed about money for meals. Higher education is a difficult enough journey; students should not have to grapple with the added stress of hunger pangs, and worries about how to access basic human needs.
The method that we will use to compile our research is a three-part literature review. We will explore the facts, statistics, and definitions surrounding food insecurity, how other institutions are attempting to combat food insecurity and create sustainable habits, and finally, where and how other Universities have put in place a system for food redistribution. I have already begun to search scholarly, research databases with the guidance of librarian Gina Levitan, and I look forward to investigating our topic further.