October 04, 2013
Fighting poverty one step at a timeThe Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has added a new member to its team.
Danielle Palmer is an AmeriCorpsVISTA member visiting Susquehanna through the Pennsylvania Campus Compact (PACC) to work on food access projects.
Palmer was brought to campus through a grant applied for and won by the CCE.
"There is a great need to help alleviate food insecurity [and] provide education about healthy food in the area," said Jay Helmer, assistant director of residence life for the Center for Civic Engagement.
Earning the grant and bringing Palmer to campus "was a way to get her here as someone dedicated to food justice and food security," he said.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program is a national service program designed to fight poverty throughout the U.S.
Palmer's position will include three main aspects, which include maintaining the campus garden, working with Haven Ministry to fight poverty while improving nutrition and engaging students in serving and becoming active members in both of those areas.
"The over arching goal is to have SU play a larger role in nutrition and food access in the greater community," Palmer said.
The campus garden has already seen major growth in Palmer's short time at Susquehanna, which she credits to an abundance of student volunteers, including organizations like Alpha Phi Omega.
"The ultimate goal is for the food to be donated to local food banks," Palmer said.
According to Alissa Packer, a biology professor who requires students in her sustainable food systems class to work one hour per week in the garden, it has been a struggle to get the campus garden fully operational in the four years since its creation in 2009.
"Danny has been great with organizing student groups to get down there. The garden hasn't looked this good in years," Packer said.
Packer's students often complete their volunteer hours under Palmer's supervision. Previously, it was difficult to require as much time from students without someone to regularly oversee work in the garden.
Produce grown in the campus garden follows all organic guidelines and sustainable methods, including composting post-consumer waste from the cafeteria, which is practiced regularly, Packer said.
She hopes the garden will eventually be able to produce enough to have some of the harvest go to the cafeteria.
Palmer, who majored in environmental studies and global studies with a minor in philosophy in college, has previous experience in work exchanges including World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
According to Helmer, Palmer brings "dedication and passion" about service, nutrition and improving poverty to campus.
"Danny allows us to do some deeper outreach and create more meaningful volunteer opportunities for our students," he said.
"I don't know if a lot of students realize that 50 million Americans are considered hungry or food insecure, and 17 million of those are children," Palmer said.
Palmer hopes student interest and volunteering in the campus garden and related projects will continue to grow.
"We should realize what's going on around us and try to use our privilege to help. It increases awareness and productivity and can help people in our community that are living in hunger on a daily basis," she said.
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