Meramec hosts panel discussion on hunger

Posted on 16 November 2016 by Ian Schrauth

More than 30 Meramec students are currently researching hunger

By: Katie Hayes


More than 30 Meramec students are currently researching hunger in St. Louis in response to the 2016 Missouri Hunger Atlas, which reported that nearly 26 percent of St. Louis City residents are food insecure.

English Professor Pam Garvey, who teaches two sections of Composition II, hosted a panel with representatives from the Brown Bag Cafe, Community Relations Officer Tom Burnham from Peter & Paul Community Service Homeless Shelter and Scott Roy, a Meramec student who is currently homeless.

Students from both of Garvey’s sections of Composition II attended the panels on Wednesday, Nov. 2. including student Lila Lemeyian, who is currently working on an honors project related to hunger in St. Louis.

“I’ve seen [Roy] around before and it’s interesting because I would have never thought he was homeless and had gone hungry, because I’ve seen him a bunch of times on campus,” Lemeyian said.

Lemeyian most recently wrote a grant proposal to obtain food for Gateway 180, an emergency housing organization, which involved students in preparing food for more than 100 homeless people on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Garvey said one goal of her Composition II classes is for students to make the connection between their education and their community.screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-51-46-pm

“There is something profound about that because all of a sudden this issue is no longer this abstract thing I’m reading about, but I’m sitting next to a person who doesn’t have enough money to buy food,” Garvey said. “That makes it real.”

Lemeyian, who is originally from Kenya, moved to St. Louis last October.

Lemeyian heard about the Mizzou hunger study from Garvey while taking Composition I last spring.

“I think when people think of hunger they think of the images you have of the starving kids in the desert in, like, Africa,” Lemeyian said. “It’s so interesting in here, in like 2016, in a country that’s as developed as this, there is still hunger and it’s almost hidden in the sense that somebody could be sitting next to you and you have no clue that they’re going hungry. It’s just a strange concept for me, I guess, because my idea of hunger is from those places of like just acute starvation.”

During the panel discussion, Burnham from Peter & Paul explained that there are food deserts in St. Louis. Food deserts, which are areas that lack access to affordable healthy foods, force residents to buy food from convenience stores or gas stations if they do not have access to transportation.

“You see a lot of overweight people suffering from malnutrition,” Burnham said.

Garvey worked with Service Learning over the summer to organize the panel as well as multiple volunteer opportunities for students.

While these sections of Composition II are not officially service learning courses, the hours are meant to assist students in understanding the issues they study.

“I wanted to have some kind of panel,” Garvey said. “I wanted to have some kind of service opportunity. I said, ‘what I want is for them [students] to be able to study this issue as a local issue, but also as something they can see from multiple pathways.” Garvey said Composition II should be about applying the research, argumentation and persuasion to a project with a “real” audience.

“When you can give students something concrete like that, it goes far,” Garvey said.

“There is a lot to experiential research and observational research that students can gain.” Garvey’s students have gone to Peter & Paul, Campus Kitchen, Food Outreach and Gateway 180 this semester to cook and serve food.

Lemeyian started volunteering outside of class as well.

“What we do is we fill backpacks with canned food and blankets and when we drive downtown and to places where there are homeless people, we will just hand out the backpacks,” Lemeyian said.

“I saw something on TV where the person always had backpacks of food in their car and I was like ‘that’s smart, I’m going to start doing that.”



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