“Studying a huge problem like global hunger can feel abstract and overwhelming. What can one person or one community do to impact change on such a big issue? The answer is a lot.” Brian Stuhlman, our Middle School Coordinator, opens one of the lessons in our Grade 8 Mizzou Global Scholars (MGS) program with this statement. The MGS program calls on student leaders to use their leadership and problem-solving skills to address significant local and global issues such as housing insecurity, gender equity, and hunger-relief. Like many of our Mizzou Academy courses, the MGS program draws on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Zero Hunger Initiative
SDG 2 is Zero Hunger. This goal aims “to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” This pressing global issue requires the dedicated and collected efforts of thought leaders, scientists, activists, farmers, organizations, and our school communities.
According to the U.N, “Current estimates show that nearly 690 million people are hungry, or 8.9 percent of the world population – up by 10 million people in one year and by nearly 60 million in five years.”
This month (July 2022), Mizzou Academy faculty, staff, and students partnered with the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri for several school events. The summer timing was intentional as the Food Bank sees a significant dip in volunteers each summer. One-quarter of the Food Bank’s volunteers come from local college and university students, most of whom are not available June-August. Mizzou Academy was proud to be able to offer some help to fill this important gap in service.
Hope for Heroes.
Our first event was the Hope for Heroes 5K. The race, now in its fifth year, helps fund the VIP Veteran Pack Program. Three administrators, one former Instructional Specialist, and a middle school student participated in the 5K to raise funds for the veterans’ food program. According to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, “20% of homes fed through Feeding America’s network of food banks included a veteran.” The veterans’ program is one of the Food Bank’s newest programs. Since its recent inception, it has already grown to serve 450 veterans monthly across a 13-county region. The Hope for Heroes 5K events in Columbia and Jefferson City raised over 60K to help fund this important program. Mizzou Academy Business Director Tami Regan chose this noble event for her first-ever 5K race.
Produce Box Food Pack.
In mid-July, Mizzou Academy put out an organization-wide invitation for a “food day.” Ten people signed up and spent the morning in the volunteer room. The group included faculty, staff, and family members from the Mizzou Academy team.
Paul Craigmile, an Instructional Specialist who works in Mizzou Academy’s personal development courses shared, “I chose to participate in the volunteering event with the Food Bank because it was an opportunity to both contribute my time to an organization that does vital work in our community, and to spend time with fellow Mizzou Academy friends and colleagues. I learned about the impact the Food Bank makes in central and northern Missouri and the tremendous amount of quality food provided for those in need. I feel like these events are a perfect fit for Mizzou Academy and its mission to meet and solve global challenges. I believe that we can begin solving global challenges at home, and in the process set an example for others who seek to make an impact in their own communities.”
Together with a few Americorps volunteers, the Mizzou Academy crew packed almost 12,000lbs of fresh produce. These boxes ship out weekly to serve neighbors at the central and mobile pantries across mid-Missouri.
Food Pack and Warehouse Tour.
Our final July event with the Food Bank was another food pack and warehouse tour with visiting international high school scholars. These high school students stayed on the Mizzou Academy campus for a few weeks in July as part of our Mizzou International Experience summer program. In true Mizzou Academy fashion, within two days of their arrival, they were already at work impacting change in mid-Missouri.
The students packed 2,100lbs (952kgs) of carrots that will be added to the next set of produce boxes. While packing carrots, students talked about hunger-relief work in their local communities and taught their peers how to say carrot in Portuguese (cenoura), Spanish (zanahoria), and Ukrainian (морква). As part of the event, students also toured the warehouse and asked insightful questions about food security and hunger-relief efforts.
Food Insecurity and Children
“Education, health, and wellbeing are all connected.” says Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, an avid volunteer at both the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri and Loaves and Fishes, a local soup kitchen. The Executive Director says, “At Mizzou Academy, we believe that our school communities and student leaders don’t have to wait to start making a difference. Our young people already have innovative solutions and welcome enthusiasm around important global issues like hunger relief. Further, school-aged children are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, meaning this is an important youth issue. If it’s an issue that matters to young people, it’s an issue that matters to educators and school leaders, too.”
Feeding Missouri states that in our home state of Missouri, over 200 thousand children “don’t know where their next meal is coming from… In fact over 41% of households seeking food assistance have at least one child under the age of 18, and 18% have at least one child under the age of six.”
When learning about the “buddy pack program” at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, one of our supplemental middle school students said, “Some of my friends get those packs to help out over the weekends.” This student’s friends aren’t alone, as 7,500 school-aged children in mid-Missouri receive food support through this program weekly.
Andrea Love-Downs, an Instructional Specialist who works in our art and personal development courses, participated in the produce food pack with Macy, her grown daughter. She shared that “her roles as both a parent and educator” inform how she wants to be of service. “I serve with the intention of inspiring the following generation on the value of extending compassion, kindness, and love to others who may be in need.”
Fishman-Weaver put it in more plainly saying, “Just like teaching, food is love.”
Focus Value — Access
The Mizzou Academy team has engaged in intentional work around articulating our core values. These values are partnership, innovation, access, and inclusion. Over the next year, we will be sharing stories that highlight these values.