Strategic Plan Awards Grant for Research Study on Food Insecurity at Marist

“There’s only so much food you can get at Ocean State Job Lot,” — Eileen Curley, English Department Chair

At Marist, students and faculty have noticed there are issues surrounding food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  Incoming classes are growing in numbers, each with a diverse set of needs and accommodations, and there is faculty-lead research currently being conducted to address the issues with access to food.

“We discovered we were all hearing similar anecdotes from people and that it might be good to do an actual study and figure out what the real situation is on campus,” said Eileen Curley, Associate Professor and English Department Chair and a spearhead of the efforts. “There’s only so much food you can get at Ocean State Job Lot.”

The goal of this research is to address the root causes of Marist’s food insecurity and eventually find ways to meet the nutritional needs that contribute to students' academic and social success.

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Curley had the idea to study following multiple conversations she had with students and their struggles with food insecurity. She realized other administrators had been having the same conversations with students and recognized that this was a larger issue than she previously understood.

“Our overarching goal is to make sure that every student at Marist has the foundational support that they need to succeed academically and socially here,” said steering committee member and Assistant Professor of Political Science Elizabeth Kaknes. “And that requires, at the most foundational human level, simply the correct nutrition.”

Marist students do not have sufficient access to food apart from the dining halls, Curley said. She noted that students who do not have cars struggle to find grocery stores because there aren’t many in the area or in walking distance. 

Distraught by their informal findings from student feedback, Curley and other steering committee applied for a Strategic Plan grant, where the committee was approved to receive a $5,000 grant to conduct research on food insecurity at Marist. 

This semester, the committee is working on a research project in order to find out more about the issue on campus and the best way to go about solving it. The committee is conducting focus groups with groups of students that have a particular experience with the problem. 

The group is also looking at what other similarly sized schools are doing to combat their problems with food insecurity in order to gain more information about the best way to solve the issue.

“The grant this year is aimed at assessing the problem and coming up with some possible solutions,” said steering committee member and Associate Professor of Political Science Jessica Boscarino. “We would hope that the Strategic Plan grants would be continued next year. If they did, we would hope that the next step would be implementation of whatever plan we would suggest to the administration.” 

With the resignation of former President, David Yellen, this summer, the state of the Strategic Plan program is currently unknown. It will be up to interim President, Dennis J. Murray, to decide whether or not to continue with the grants into the future.

Max SmithComment