Each volunteer day is facilitated by a “team lead” from the SEO. Following the program day, students are asked to send in a detailed reflection of their experience as a course assignment.
Participation in the community-engaged portion of the class is optional. Students can opt to write a research paper instead. Still, the program has been very successful in its first year with 40 out of 60 students choosing to volunteer.
Dr. Peter Andrée, the Politics of Food instructor and the chair of Carleton’s committee of Community Engaged Pedagogy, says he is a fan of experiential learning and the valuable new experiences it gives his students.
“The study of politics is historically tied to the study of and not the doing of, so this course pushes those boundaries a bit,” explains Andrée. “My goal with this experience is to have students humanize the statistics they see on Canadian food insecurity, gain an appreciation for what these organizations do and get them to critically analyze whether this challenge can be successfully addressed through ad-hoc, charitable approaches.”
Canadian Food Insecurity
Household food insecurity – the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints – is a serious public health problem in Canada. According to the last national survey in 2012, one in eight households across Canada qualified as being “food insecure” – amounting to more than four times the total population of Ottawa.
Food insecurity negatively impacts physical, mental and social health. For example, a Canadian family who is considered severely food insecure will face total healthcare costs that are, on average, 121 per cent higher than their food secure counterparts.
“It was amazing to see the good work these organizations do for the people of Ottawa,” says Pressman. “But at the end of the day, it is only one meal. Those families still need to eat six other days of the week. Seeing the problem in front of me made me realize that Canada’s current solution is inadequate. One meal a week is not going to make or break someone.”
From Campus to Community
The Student Experience Office is an on-campus resource that offers several programs involving student development and student leadership. The collaborative changes to the Politics of Food curriculum are an extension of an existing SEO initiative called the Campus to Community program. The program, up until this point, has functioned as a co-curricular activity separate from academics.
Chiara Webb, a staff member whose portfolio includes the Campus to Community program, says she believes this new partnership with Dr. Andrée enriches the student experience and allows participants to connect to their course work and community in a new and exciting way.