Drew University Class Creates Content for Interfaith Food Pantry

Community-based learning class writes fact sheets and records informative videos

April 2020 – Drew University’s Social Policy & Inequality in America class was set to research the Interfaith Food Pantry’s mobile pantry program as part of the community-focused portion of the course.

The organization originally implemented mobile pantries as part of their offerings several years ago after securing a grant stemming from research by a Drew class that found mobile pantries to be a viable and beneficial option to serve those in need, particularly those who could not reach the pantry on their own.

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The class visited the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains, NJ, earlier this semester.

“We were going to collect survey data and anecdotal feedback to gauge the effectiveness of the program over the last two or three years,” said professor Patrick McGuinn. “Is it meeting peoples’ needs? What kinds of food is desired but not being provided? How can it be improved?”

But when Drew instituted social distancing measures due to COVID-19, McGuinn’s class of 13 students had to pivot away from surveying mobile pantry sites and interviewing food-insecure recipients and find another way to serve the IFP.

They decided to assist in the organization’s education and outreach program that provides information about poverty and food insecurity to local elementary, middle and high schools and on their website.

The class will split into small teams and turn weekly topics discussed in the seminar portion of the course into fact sheets and short videos that the IFP can use for their outreach efforts.

“In class, we look at the connections between poverty and food insecurity, between nutrition and health policy and health care,” said McGuinn.

“How does America create social policy differently than the rest of the world? How does it address poverty and unemployment? How are the two linked to food insecurity, living in a ‘food desert’ or a lack of access to nutritional food? How has this pandemic affected students who rely on free or discounted meals through National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs?”

The fact sheets and videos will be digestible, informative materials that can be used to help spread awareness about these critical and timely issues that often suffer from a lack of awareness.

The project also provides a chance for Drew students to make an impact on their community, a crucial goal of the community-based learning course, in a different, but no less meaningful, way than originally planned.

“The were happy to still get a chance to produce something of value that’s utilized by the IFP and helps educate and transfer the valuable information they’ve learned in this class to K-12 students who may not have had exposure to this issue,” said McGuinn.

“We might not be able to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or do the field research we’d planned on this year, but we can still add something of true value to the organization that ultimately benefits the community.”

For the latest information regarding Drew’s response to the coronavirus, visit the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) resource site.

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