A pizza eating pizza. I realize this mental image isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of a capstone writing class focused on rigorous academic research and engaging in scholarly conversations. Still, this was the scene the Thursday before Halloween, as I arrived to class in my cheesy (pun definitely intended) pizza costume with two boxes of my tasty counterpart, cheese in one hand and pepperoni in the other.
I suppose food had been on my mind. Just a few weeks prior, Derek Russell from the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) stopped by our class to talk about Grover Essentials and how USG is tackling the issue of food insecurity here on campus.
You might be thinking, “Grover? You mean the super-heroic blue muppet?”
Here at Shady Grove, Grover is actually a reference to Grover the Llama, our official unofficial mascot. And Grover Essentials is USG’s answer to food insecurity and hunger prevalent on campus. Opened in August of 2018, Grover Essentials is a food and toiletry pantry open to all members of the USG community.
As a staff member, it has been awesome to see the evolution of this program, from a few densely packed shelves of canned goods to sleek lockers perfect for easy and anonymous pickup. During the pandemic, Grover Essentials became Grover to Go, prioritizing safe distribution of items to help those in need.
Many of my students hadn’t heard of this program, and the classroom conversation facilitated by Derek was an ideal fit for the issues we’re discussing each week in class. You see, Grover Essentials isn’t just a service being offered on campus—it’s a shining example of how USG has created an innovative solution to a public health issue right here on campus. By collaborating with community partners like Manna Food Distribution Center and taking a research-based approach, the CSEF team has done a fantastic job of providing basic needs to promote the well-being of our students and campus community.
Derek brought the data—did you know 36% of students at USG worry about how they’ll pay for their next meal? Between August 1-October 31st, Grover to Go served over 85 unique students and distributed 310 bags of food or toiletries.
This framing of a public health problem and potential solutions aligned with the exact type of work we’re doing in the capstone papers. As a class, it was energizing to think about ways we could build on this program and use it as a model to further benefit our campus and beyond. I know Derek, CSEF, and Grover Essentials helped make a strong connection between researching existing interventions and building recommendations to addressing the biggest issues in our communities.
If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out Grover Essentials. Here you can learn more about the program and donate funds or items via their Amazon Wishlist.
And, just like my last blog, the invitation is open to track me down on campus or in a virtual space to continue the conversation about USG, public health, and the way our educational experiences extend beyond the classroom.
Hey, maybe we can even grab some slices of pizza. Only this time I promise I won’t look like one.