Three liberal studies students, Calista Ho, Camryn Hamm and Melissa Provancha, will conduct a research project focused on improving access to healthier foods in Pomona as recipients of the President’s Discovery Fellowship.
The Learn Through Discovery program supports student success through undergraduate research, innovation and community engagement. Each year, ten service-learning projects are selected to receive the prestigious award and implement a plan to help address challenges in the surrounding community.
According to a report issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly half of Pomona is considered low-income and has limited access to supermarkets.
Over the next two years, the group will organize a town hall meeting to discuss food access and build a community garden at a nearby school.
“This project combines our passion for food justice and education,” said Ho, a sophomore. “Studies show that students who lack proper nutrition are not able to focus as well as others in the classroom. As aspiring teachers, we want to ensure that our future students have access to nutritious foods to support their academic performance.”
Ho said her group learned about food insecurity and developed a passion for activism around the issue in a service-learning course taught by Liberal Studies Assistant Professor Teresa Lloro-Bidart.
“Woven through weekly group projects, field site exposure, and the bonds formed in class, were powerful messages that touched each of us personally,” she said. “This is what sparked a fire within our eyes. When the class came to an end, our growing passion for this issue continued to expand, and we all knew that our work was not finished, but had just begun.”
In addition to their coursework, Ho and Hamm have been very active in the Liberal Studies Club, participating in Pomona Beautification Day by repainting a walkway at Kellogg Polytechnic Elementary.
“This kind of student undergraduate research exemplifies Cal Poly Pomona’s commitment to learning by doing, while also making a positive impact on the community,” said Jeff Passe, dean of College of Education and Integrative Studies.
Ho, Hamm and Provancha will begin their group project in fall 2019.