Covering issues ranging from food insecurity and agriculture to healthcare and education, this year’s Sustainable UGA Semester in Review, held on April 26, celebrated people, programs and academic courses aimed at creating a culture of sustainability at the University of Georgia.
The event included opportunities for networking, brief presentations from Office of Sustainability interns, posters and table displays, as well as recognition of Sustainable UGA Award recipients.
Together, Meagan Bens, a master’s student in the College of Education’s learning, leadership and organizational development program, and Nick Slagel, a doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ food and nutrition program, shared their experiences interning with the Athens Farmers Market.
As the market’s community outreach coordinator, Bens focused on raising awareness of its Double SNAP program by forming relationships with local businesses, small organizations and government agencies that interact with and support community members who use SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps.
The Double SNAP program allows users to double their benefits at the market, making it more affordable than other grocery stores.
“Through our efforts and partnerships, we are bringing communities closer together,” said Bens. “By eating healthy and wholesome foods, clients see a significant decrease in chronic diseases and sicknesses associated with food insecurity. We also see food as a catalyst that brings people together and allows them to share their cultures and heritages with one another while providing nourishment.”
To continue the fight against food insecurity in Athens, Bens and Slagel stressed the importance of community commitment, engagement and consistency.
“It’s imperative that we keep up the momentum,” said Bens. “Future initiatives need to have a common vision to form shared goals and values to truly diminish the social disparities and food insecurity we see in Athens.”
As part of his internship, Slagel, who served as the market’s fruit and vegetable prescription program coordinator, partnered with UGA SNAP-Ed, the university’s supplemental assistance program for underserved populations, to provide nutrition education and cooking classes, as well as Athens Nurses Clinic to provide health screenings and assessments. Clients who participate in these classes receive a produce voucher for free produce at the Athens Farmers Market.
“We wouldn’t have these positions if it weren’t for these organizations and their initiative to combat food insecurity,” said Slagel. “Megan and I are supporting these programs to hopefully reduce their burden.”