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Student organization packs good cause

Food4Thought (F4T) is a local non-profit food assistance program. Bags (originally backpacks) of food are sent home with elementary-school children who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunches (FRL). The intention of this program is for these children, who may not have anything to eat all weekend, to have some, or additional, nourishment so they will not feel hungry and will be ready to focus on Monday morning when they return to school.

Over the past two years, we have grown from serving 68 families at four Hastings Public Schools to 80 families at six schools. Sadly, these numbers could be much larger given that 14.4 percent  of the Hastings, Neb., population is below the poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,) and 60 percent of students at HPS qualify for FRL.

In addition to volunteers who help with food packing and delivery, we rely completely on donations from community groups, organizations, individuals, and grants to buy the food. Food4Thought requires $30,000 each year to provide food for the families. In order to secure funding, I frequently speak to community members to inform them of this problem, of which many are not aware, and encourage them to get involved with food relief efforts in some way.

As a student, I was encouraged to be a leader with this program from the F4T faculty sponsor, Dr. Stephanie Furrer, who also happens to be my academic adviser. Dr. Furrer has been key to my success and I cannot state enough how supportive she has been in helping making decisions for F4T as well as my life!

For instance, Dr. Furrer knew that I was scared of public speaking and really helped me tackle my fear. She was very patient with me, but also gave me enough 'tough love' to really embrace my position. She must have saw something, and took a chance on me to develop my skills, and helping me become who I am today. I am incredibly grateful for all the time and effort she has spent giving me encouragement and support.

I serve as Fundraising Coordinator, Grant Writer, Volunteer Coordinator, School Liaison and now, President for Food4Thought. When I was first approached with the presidency two years ago, I was terrified to be in charge of such an important program. I had simply volunteered at the local fundraiser and quickly became very active. 

With encouragement, I stepped into the leadership role and it changed my life. I learned how to speak up about issues that are important to me (I grew up food insecure). I developed several helpful skills used in my role as president, student, and professional: public speaking, organization, time management, networking, leadership, and recruiting. 

These skills will be extremely valuable in my career as a nurse. I have also entertained the idea of starting backpack programs wherever I live in the future.

I've always been interested in social causes, but I didn't really know how to get involved until my experience with F4T. Now that I'm much more educated in the nonprofit world and know how to use my voice, I will be involved however I can. Being involved will always be a priority of mine, and I will combine that with my career in any way possible. 

The great thing about nursing is that the career is diverse in not only specialties but also locations. Currently, I am interesting in pursuing public health nursing and the globe is my limit!

For those interested in getting involved with a cause, I recommend finding others with similar interests. What services are, or are not, already in your community? What does your community need? Dive in, but don’t reinvent the wheel. See what people are doing elsewhere and how you can bring those good ideas to your community.

Groups in other locations are likely to provide you with invaluable information and help you learn how to get involved. Finally, don’t get discouraged or shy away from opportunities that seem out of your reach. What at first glance may appear intimidating, may also push you out of your comfort zone and propel you to greater things.

About the Author

Jasmine Khamouna
President, Food4Thought, Hastings College '14

Jasmine is a senior at Hastings College majoring in Psychology, Sociology and Health Systems. She is the President of Food4Thought and works as a CNA for Good Samaritan Village.


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