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Pay It Forward: Battling for food security

Pay It Forward, a student cohort at Ohio State, will host its annual Battle Against Hunger program throughout November, which strives to raise awareness and supplies to combat food insecurity as part of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month.

One way that Battle Against Hunger attacks the issue is by setting out to educate first-year students on proper nutrition and food security, according to Alyssa Johnson, coordinator of service and outreach. She said this is accomplished through educational panels and sessions put on throughout the month.

Food insecurity can be affected by income, household access, food prices and type as well as by a houshold’s proximity to the nearest grocery. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

“It is just connecting those first-year students to their resources here, so they can be better prepared if they move off campus in their third year,” Johnson said.

To help off-campus students, Johnson said the program works with local food pantries, such as Neighborhood Services Inc.

“We like to connect with [local food pantries], to make sure our off-campus students can benefit from the things we do here,” Johnson said.

Students looking to contribute can do so in a variety of ways. The program looks to inspire other organizations, such as Block O, to host their own food drives, Kaitlin McGrath, a second-year in human nutrition and planning co-chair for the Battle Against Hunger, said.

“We serve as a central hub for that, so we track how much food drives are collecting and are able to say, ‘This is what the students of Ohio State are putting forth in our November initiative,’” McGrath said.

Battle Against Hunger and D-Tix have also teamed up from Monday through Saturday to provide a water bottle to students who donate a non-perishable food item, McGrath said, adding that students with a meal plan can donate swipes through the Tapingo app or by visiting a dining location.

“That goes then back to Buckeye Food Alliance, which is the on-campus food pantry, so you are directly giving back to other Buckeyes,” McGrath said.

Subha Sivakumar, a second-year in neuroscience and leadership and planning co-chair for the Battle Against Hunger, said the competitive aspect of the program can serve as extra motivation throughout the month.

“Since the Michigan game is at home, I wanted to compile everybody’s food drive and put it into almost a live counter against Michigan,” Sivakumar said. “Michigan is also doing the same thing on their end, so any food we collect over the month of November is counted for Battle Against Hunger.”

Kidest Beyene, a third-year in African-American studies and public management, leadership and policy and planning co-chair for the Battle Against Hunger, said the ultimate goal is to enhance understanding of the struggles of students who face food insecurity.

“[Understanding] makes you more open minded and capable of addressing that issue or other diverse social problems,” she said.

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