Food insecurity persists across the North Shore. A 2018 study found that 38 percent of Salem State students experience hunger.
To help combat this crisis on campus, Vanessa Ruget, PhD, associate professor in political science, launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to raise money for the on-campus food pantry as part of a first-year seminar called Global Poverty and Charitable Giving.
“Crowdfunding is a form of experiential education,” says Vanessa, whose seminar introduces learners to college life and fosters community. Her students’ crowdfunding campaigns-- which raise funds from numerous donors online-- have secured more than $3,000 for the SSU food pantry over the last three years.
The campaigns teach students about fundraising, web design and communications skills, and enable them to collaborate with numerous campus offices.
According to Alliane Brennan, program coordinator in the Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy and Diversity (LEAD) office, which supports the pantry, students’ crowdfunding experiences dovetail with the course’s overall goal to unpack poverty in the United States.
“Professor Ruget and her students have been incredible in not only generating funds for the Salem State Food Pantry, but also in creating a greater awareness and understanding around how food insecurity significantly impacts college students across the country—including here at SSU,” Alliane explains. “With the funds raised, the LEAD office has purchased non-perishable food and toiletry items utilized by students in need each year.”
Beyond developing marketable skills, students in the first-year seminar also learn about the power of philanthropy.
“Even small contributions add up,” Vanessa says. “While students may not be able to give right now, they can take what they’ve learned and someday donate to causes that matter most to them.”