Every year, the second week of September is celebrated as “Feed the Future Week,” a time to acknowledge the progress made toward ending world hunger. It is for this reason world hunger is the first topic discussed in Professor Wanda Haby’s Cardinal Foundation Seminar (CFS) class, “Amelioration: Your Impact on Your Community.”
The purpose of the class is to learn and gain awareness of how issues like hunger are prevalent first on a local scale – Clinton County – then on national and global scales. Recently, students researched hunger in a variety of countries, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Guatemala, and found that in each of them, the problem of hunger manifests in a variety of ways. For example, one country may not be able to grow enough food to feed its people, but another may grow enough, but lack the means to distribute it.
According to Haby, the research was eye-opening to students, who are all freshmen.
“One of [the students] said, ‘I didn’t realize people were going hungry,’” Haby said.
Another project the CFS students are working on is growing their own plants, including kale, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, lemon balm and rosemary, and documenting their growth. Once the plants are harvested, they will be used in salads, meat dishes, bread and tea to enjoy as a class. Haby refers to these plants as “botanical miracles.” The “miracle” property of the plants stems from the fact that “some of them are going to die – we know this.”
Student feedback on the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Some have grown so attached to their “miracles” that they have given them names.
“It’s awesome, because a lot of people have never done it. It feels good growing your own plants,” Dhruv Shah, a psychology major, said. “I get to say this is my plant, I have grown it from scratch. It’s a whole different feeling. It’s a very unusual class. It feels new. It feels different.”
The purpose of growing “botanical miracles” is “seeing just how difficult it is to grow crops,” and understanding the importance of being self-sustaining. But for some students, like Shah, it’s also a calming activity.
“I never thought I would grow plants and feel so happy. It can definitely help you get peace in the future,” Shah said.
“They’re first-year students, so they’re getting a fresh look,” Haby said.
Sean Lukas, a 2012 SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus with a degree in Environmental Planning and Management and current general manager at Casella Waste Systems, said, “I think a key part of the college experience includes not only learning about new topics but seeing things from a new view.”
He is just one of several guest speakers to talk to the CFS students, among representatives from other local organizations, such as soup kitchens and food pantries.
As the three-week-long unit on world hunger comes to an end this week, the class will progress to the topic of community outreach, where they will be working on projects together with the senior residents of Plattsburgh, such as knitting blankets to be donated to a nursing home.
Although the class activities are limited solely to enrolled students, Haby encourages all those interested in volunteering to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is enough interest, the campus may see more community-driven events for students and faculty to participate in.