Social Work students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle have been getting a lesson in hunger this semester, and will be sharing what they’ve learned with the campus and community in December.
Students in Social Work 425 Special Topics: Hunger in Maine have been learning about hunger issues in the state, where nearly 1 out of 4 children (or 62,800) are food insecure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as “access, at all times, to enough food for an active healthy life for all household members.” Data also shows that:
- Forty-nine percent of children residing in Aroostook County are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program;
- Almost 5.5 percent of older adults in Maine are food insecure; and
- Thirty-six percent of Maine’s food insecure population makes too much to qualify for food stamps and must rely on the charity food assistance network.
The students in Social Work 425, as well as the entire campus, had the opportunity earlier this semester to take part in the first annual “Food Fight” to collect and distribute food to local people in need. Over 1,536 pounds of food was collected and donated by UMPI and Northern Maine Community College to Catholic Charities Maine.
In addition, six students from the Social Work 425 class attended The Maine Hunger Dialogue: Mobilizing the Power of Higher Education to End Hunger in Maine, a two-day conference in Orono. The conference was sponsored collaboratively by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Campus Compact, along with several significant corporate sponsors.
Students learned about food insecurity locally and globally, participated in a “Power Pack Out” to measure and pack over 10,000 meals for a local food pantry, networked with students from over 17 campuses in Maine, and planned research about the issue of food insecurity on the UMPI campus and possible ways to provide resources to meet those needs.
Students attending the conference from UMPI were: Chantelle Butts, Veronique Bouchard, Leanne Humphrey, Melanie Maynard, Brett McIsaac, and Emily McInnis. Their trip was made possible in part by The Pizza Box, which covered the conference fees following students’ fundraising efforts.
John Moist, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for Early College Access at UMPI, travelled along with the Social Work 425 students to represent both the campus and Maine Campus Compact. Moist will be engaging in work with the Social Work 425 students to aid and continue their efforts after the semester has ended.
While the cause of “food insecurity” is poverty—lack of jobs, lack of adequate salaries, and lack of resources—students will focus on solutions. Social Work 425 students will present their research findings and recommendations for action at the end of the current semester. This is a campus wide initiative, open to all majors and interested groups and people on campus. All are encouraged to join the students of Social Work 425 and UMPI in eliminating hunger in Aroostook County.
For more information about this upcoming presentation, contact Shirley Rush, BSW Program Director, at email@example.com.