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Students Fight Hunger Through Social Influence

Posted on May 22, 2014.
Kyle Hawkes (left) and Craig Schneid prepare bags of food for BackPack Beginnings at Parkview Elementary School.

Kyle Hawkes (left) and Craig Schneid prepare bags of food for BackPack Beginnings at Parkview Elementary School.

HIGH POINT, N.C., May 22, 2014 – High Point University students in Dr. Sadie Leder Elder’s Psychology of Social Influence class experienced the power of positive persuasion and influence while completing a class project that provided meals for a week to 125 students at Parkview Elementary School.

Students in the class participated in an experiential learning project that used persuasion and influence strategies to make a positive impact on a social issue facing the community. The upper-level psychology students collectively chose to partner with BackPack Beginnings to address childhood hunger.

“I charged my class with the mission of making a difference, and they responded by selecting a local organization to support, organizing events and utilizing social media to spread awareness about hunger in our community,” says Dr. Sadie Leder Elder, assistant professor of psychology at HPU. “This project is a hands-on demonstration of how psychology students can turn class lessons into life lessons by raising money and awareness to make a pro-social change.”

Pictured from left Caitlin Kane, Gabe Dudley, Katie Watson and Kyle Hawkes

Pictured from left Caitlin Kane, Gabe Dudley, Katie Watson and Kyle Hawkes

Through the project, called Food for Thought, students organized several “give-back nights” at local restaurants to raise money for the backpack program at Parkview. During events at Barberitos and Feeney’s, 10 percent of the proceeds went to funding meals provided by BackPack Beginnings.

The class also organized an on-campus guest speaker event. Michelle Bodie-Anderson, Communities in Schools site coordinator for Parkview, and Michele Alvarino, BackPack Beginnings volunteer office manager, talked about food insecurity and the difference that support from organizations like BackPack Beginnings makes in addressing childhood hunger.

Data from Feeding America ranks North Carolina second in the nation for the highest rate of food insecure children under age 5. The Greensboro/High Point area is ranked fourth in the nation for people who report they do not have enough money for food, according to Food Research and Action Center.

“The HPU students did a wonderful job of raising awareness for childhood hunger by hosting local fundraisers to benefit Parkview Elementary,” says Parker White, founder and executive director of BackPack Beginnings. “Each week we send home a bag of food with 125 children at Parkview identified as receiving little to no food over the weekends. The support from this class will allow us to sustain and grow our program at Parkview, and we are so thankful for that opportunity.”

The Food for Thought project culminated in two visits to Parkview, during which HPU students helped make sure the weekend backpacks were filled with nutritious food and delivered the meals to the classrooms for children to take home.

About 98 percent of Parkview’s 360 elementary students receive free or reduced-price meals during the school day. BackPack Beginnings provides a bag of child-friendly, nutritious food for children to take home each weekend during the school year. It costs approximately $5 to fill each bag prepared by the organization.

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