Batten Students Award $80k in Grant Funding to Local Organizations Fighting Food Insecurity

Luncheon in the Great Hall in Garrett
The Batten School is embracing this holiday season by recognizing individuals, organizations, and projects that are making a positive impact in the world. Ways to support each cause will be included at the end of every story.

During a luncheon in the Great Hall of Garrett Hall on Friday, Dec. 7, students enrolled in Professors Paul Martin and Sarah McLean’s “NGOs in the Policy Arena” course awarded $80,000 in grants to six local organizations fighting food insecurity. Friday’s event was the culmination of a semester-long project led by Martin and McLean, director of the Adiuvans Foundation, which provides grant funding through a partnership with the school. Since Martin first launched the course in the fall of 2012, the Adiuvans Foundation and another foundation have provided more than $750,000 in grants to organizations that are making a difference in the Charlottesville area.

This year’s grant recipients were Blue Ridge Area Food BankCity Schoolyard GardenFluvanna Meals on WheelsLoaves & Fishes Food PantryLouisa County Resource Council, and New Roots (IRC).

The class simulates the experience of working as a grants manager for a foundation. At the beginning of each fall semester, students in Martin and McLean begin a process of getting up to speed on a critical aspect of poverty in the Charlottesville community context, meeting with local experts and reading broadly on the topic. Students work as a full class to understand the issues and then break into smaller teams to make funding recommendations to the directors of the Adiuvans Foundation. As Sarah McLean serves as a co-instructor for the course and as director of the foundation, students get the double-benefit of working for and learning from the foundation.

“The class focuses on core issues of poverty, and we rotate through three topics on a three-year pattern: food insecurity/food justice, affordable housing, and health/mental health because they are big issues of poverty that our community struggles with,” said Martin.

“One of the big takeaways from the class is that nonprofit organizations play a quiet, but critical role in implementing public policy, especially in the social welfare space. The other takeaway is the size of the gap between the needs of low-income people and the policy resources available is extensive. The data unearthed by the Louisa County Resource Council highlighted this problem – of those who would qualify for aid in Louisa County, only half are getting help.”

Last year, one in eight Americans were food insecure and a total of 46 million people faced hunger—12 million are children and 7 million are senior citizens. Food activists, such as Alice Waters, and journalists, such as Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, have been outspoken about the lack of access to real food in America. And yet, no solution has emerged. Food insecurity is so difficult to resolve because of its underlying causes—poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and an inconsistent access to healthy nutritious food.

“Most students at UVA have not experienced poverty, have little exposure to policies connected to poverty, and are not familiar with the depths of the problems in the community,” said Martin. “The grants provide a bridge between our relatively privileged experience and the lives of the poor, which leads the class to have a bit of shock-value as students become more fully aware of the gaps between the vulnerabilities people face and the resources available to help.”

Representatives from each organization attended the luncheon to thank the students and give remarks—many of which were heartening personal anecdotes about the people their organizations helped. For more information on each organization, including how to provide support, visit the organization’s website linked above. To see more of the students’ work from the class, visit their webpage. Martin and McLean will turn their focus to mental health and health care next fall.