At last year’s Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference, Kathleen Grady, the director of sustainability, learned about food insecurity — or unreliable access to nutritious food — among college students.
She said she came back from the conference with “another lens” to look at the work the Office of Sustainability has done with food in the past.
“We think [food insecurity is] manageable at a college or university to address,” Grady said. “These are members of the Temple community. Students who are food insecure have struggled to remain in school, have lower graduation rates and retention rates. … So in our mind, it’s like, ‘How do we harness Temple’s resources so that we can make sure that we’re providing for all of the wellness needs for our students?’”
As Campus Sustainability Week approached, Grady knew she wanted the week’s theme to be food insecurity. The week started on Monday with “A Sound of Hunger” — a music and arts demonstration in solidarity with food-insecure students.
The event was meant to “make a presence” for this issue on Main Campus, said Emily Logan, a second-year innovation management and entrepreneurship master’s student and a recycling coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. Logan organized the artists and musicians for the event.
Jamie Brooke, a 2016 theater alumna, performed poems from her journal that she converted into songs. Brooke said she’s been concerned about access to resources — especially water — lately.
“This is our soul and this is our planet, this is our home,” Brooke sang while standing in front of a sculpture made of empty cans hanging from the Bell Tower. Logan said when the cans bang together, the noise is meant to symbolize the “sound of hunger.”
During the demonstration, there was a food justice fair, which featured the Rad Dish Co-Op Café and Greensgrow Farms, an urban farming organization. Deirdre Sheehy, a 2014 Greek and Roman classics alumna, is a lead farmer at Greensgrow. She was selling produce to students like sophomore civil engineering major Andrew Bertolazzi and sophomore history and political science major Tori Nichols.
The students bought apples from the stand and said the easy access to produce encouraged them to buy a healthy snack.
“I think it’s always a good idea to have local produce especially, so if there was more of that on campus I think everyone would benefit from it,” Nichols said.
Other events this week include Temple Chopped, a cooking competition during which students will compete to make the best meal with inexpensive ingredients often found in a food pantry, on Tuesday. On Thursday, there will be a food insecurity panel with representatives from other universities — like Montclair State, Rutgers, West Chester and Stockton — that have food pantries that aid food-insecure students. On Friday, Temple Community Garden’s tiny house will have its grand opening with a “tiny house-warming party” with tiny snacks and a tiny ribbon-cutting ceremony. The tiny house is a collaborative sustainability project across disciplines at the university and will host workshops about growing and preparing food.
Logan said the main goal of the programming is to start a conversation about food insecurity on Main Campus.
These events follow higher education professor Sara Goldrick-Rab’s recent study about food insecurity, which found that a third of community college students in the United States regularly go hungry. Temple does not have a food pantry for students right now, but the Inquirer reported in February that the university is “exploring ideas.”
“Hunger is a real thing for a lot of students on campus and sometimes you have to decide between getting a meal or like, going to your job,” Logan said. “It’s a really growing issue and it needs to be talked about and addressed.”
“People need to know people are suffering on campus and it’s more than on campus, it does happen after college too,” Brooke said. “We need to talk about it and now this is a public statement. That’s the purpose of this event and I hope people are listening.”
Erin Moran can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ernmrntweets.