Every Monday through Friday during the school year, Hun School students file into the Dining Hall to consider their choices. Will today’s lunch be a hot entrée or a salad and sandwich? Maybe it will be the vegetarian-friendly entrée or a cup of soup. The options are plentiful, but, as students in the NextTerm class, “Feeding America: Combating Food Insecurity” are learning, many children face more serious questions when it comes to their food, including where their next meal will come from, if they will have enough money to cover the cost, and if it will sustain them. In New Jersey, one in ten people struggles with hunger.
The three-week experiential NextTerm class spotlighting food insecurity helps shine a light on this growing problem through in-class lectures and field work, including volunteer hours at TASK, visits to local farms, and even a shopping trip to the supermarket armed with $120—the equivalent of what the SNAP program provides for a family of four. The class is team taught by three teachers from three disciplines: Charles Duboc of the mathematics department; Olivia Albanese of the science department; and Laura Bishop, director of the library and media center.
Food insecurity is more than just a socioeconomic issue; it’s also a public health crisis. Proper nutrition not only staves off the development of diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, but it also affects performance in school and at work. The students spent two days volunteering at TASK to experience firsthand the powerful effects of a well-balanced meal.
The Hun School students also learned about food deserts in a very real-world way. Often found in lower income urban areas, food deserts are places where supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and other shopping options are either nonexistent or require long and expensive transportation, making it virtually impossible for struggling families to gain access to healthy and fresh food. The corner bodega becomes the main source of food, limiting choices to non-perishable, high-fat, high-salt and highly processed items. In order to drive this fact home, the students visited a bodega in Trenton and were each given $5 to illustrate how difficult it is to find healthy food at a low price.
In addition to the coursework, students have paired together to tackle a component of the larger problem. From food waste and nutrition to climate change and education, the students will be presenting their ideas about how to combat these issues at NexPo on June 4th. While some students will be researching and reviewing government policies as they pertain to farmers and agriculture, others will be coming up with ways to spread the word about waste—with plans to design a course for encouraging recycling. Other students have expressed the desire to design a business plan for an after-school safe place for food insecure children, while others plan to tackle the money management side of food insecurity. “The most rewarding part of the class has been seeing students take what they have learned and turn that knowledge into problem solving to create a product that can stop the cycle of food insecurity,” says Olivia Albanese.