A researcher never stops researching…

I graduated from Wichita State University on Friday, May 11, 2012, with my Master’s of Arts in Communication.

I. Am. Done. With. School.

Forever.

Not kidding.

Ph.D.? Psh.

However, I fell head over heels in love with research, and I fell even harder for hunger.

I started my hunger research in September 2011 with a team of eight graduate and undergraduate students and our professor. Our first mission was a trip to Numana in Eldorado, Kan., where I learned about Rick McNary and his family’s work fighting international, national and local hunger.

I wanted to be a part of that fight, especially on the local level where I knew I could make a difference.

We created an initiative to increase hunger awareness on campus and determine the nature and scope of food security and hunger in the campus community. We hosted a food packaging event and a focus group discussion to accomplish our goals.

Our research determined we needed to do more research. We needed a bigger sample, quantitative data and another initiative. We needed a conversation.

A conversation about hunger.

A problem cannot be solved if the problem will not be voiced. Stigma surrounding the topic of food security and hunger prevents the community from discussing it.

I want to remove some of that stigma.

My graduate project was to write a proposal to the university to create a Campus Kitchens Project chapter at WSU.

When I am given the opportunity, I will submit my proposal for review, and I will present my research and the research my colleagues have done to the university administration.

I will get that kitchen. Our community needs that kitchen. Our community needs to speak out against hunger, and it will start at WSU.

I might be done with school, but I will never be done with this cause.

You can show your support on Facebook, Twitter and on the blog.

Emergency blog post: Hunger and food security at Wichita State University

A free dinner followed by a discussion about hunger and food security will be offered from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, April 20, in Room 203 in the Rhatigan Student Center at Wichita State University.

My Seminar in Public Health course led the WSU Hunger Awareness initiative last semester. We were a team of eight students and our professor as well as numerous volunteers. Our goals were to raise awareness about food security and hunger in the world and in our community as well as to determine the nature and scope of food security and hunger on campus.

We worked with Numana, put on a food packaging event for Somali refugees in Kenya with the help of Numana, SWIPE Out Hunger and Volunteer Kansas and held the first Dinner & Conversation focus group discussion.

The Second Dinner & Conversation is intended to bring WSU community members together to share a meal and to discuss hunger and food security within the campus community. The hope is to add to the findings from last semester’s research.

I do not have access to every student’s individual research. My research focused on graduate students and graduate teaching assistants.

Please join the students for this important conversation about hunger and food security in our community and on our campus.

Food for the dinner is being donated by Sodexo.

WSU Hunger Awareness has a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Please show your support by leaving your comments on the blog and visiting the social networks.

The Campus Kitchens Project: A good kitchen

Last semester, I worked with a team of graduate and undergraduate students to increase awareness about food security and hunger in the Wichita State University community and to determine the nature and scope of hunger on campus.

My research was not statistically significant.

My research did not reveal a massive amount of students, faculty and staff suffering from hunger.

My research could not convince a jury of my peers that people on campus are hungry and struggling.

But my research did do something for me: It strengthened in me a desire to feed the hungry.

While gaps in previous research and lack of former initiatives are responsible for WSU Hunger Awareness Day, the students, faculty and staff who told their stories to the eager ears of researchers and hunger activists were the reason for WSU Hunger Awareness Day.

Those same people are the reason for my graduate project.

Before I graduate and leave WSU, I am writing a proposal to the university to develop a Campus Kitchens Project on campus. The Campus Kitchens Project is a nation-wide, school-based hunger relief program designed to use leftover, unused food from the campus kitchen to feed people suffering from very low food security and hunger in the community.

I ask for your support because I have a strong desire to feed the hungry. I ask for your support because I witnessed and read painful, sorrow-filled testimony from people in the WSU community. I ask for your support if you believe that no one should go to bed hungry.

I ask for your support because I cannot do it alone.

I will collect signatures in support of my proposal on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at the Rhatigan Student Center. Look for my table on the first floor.

If you cannot or do not want to sign my petition, please spread the word to your friends and acquaintances at WSU.

Blogging again + An update

Two weeks?

Really?

Wow.

No excuses.

I have avoided my computer because I’m glued to 52 square inches of screen at work.

Computer WorkstationNot that I don’t love those screens! I am thankful and blessed to be staring at those screens. I’m thankful for work! (And I’ll give you another reason in a minute.) But I just had to rest my eyes and my mind.

Sometimes, you have got to get away from technology. I also cut myself off from Facebook and Twitter – so much so that one of my friends sent me a message to make sure I was OK.

Hilarious.

During my break, I finished reading the second book in my series: The Girl Who Played with Fire. I love mysteries, but here is my warning: It is just as morbid as the first book.

Two weeks. A nice vacation from blogging (just one week from social media). I had a nice rest, but I’m back to blogging!

I am also back to school. I have six credit hours left until I get my master’s degree.

Six.

I am so close! My class met Thursday: Writing and Editing for the Web. The required textbook? The Yahoo! Style Guide. Assignments? Write blogs.

No. I’m not joking.

Yes. It’s awesome.

skinnyshae will change this semester. Instead of a lot of original, unique content, the blog will transform to a “link blog” somewhat. I will share more information than I will create. Expect to see a lot of links to some of my favorite blogs and websites.

I also have a graduate project this semester. I want to write a proposal for the university to consider creating a Campus Kitchens Project at WSU as a continuation of my research about hunger from last semester. Check out the CKP here. Another student from that class, Katie, and I might be able to create a poster for a graduate competition at WSU. I am super excited about that possibility. Fingers crossed!

The project will take up much of my time, but I should be far less stressed than I was last semester. I’m sure we all remember how crazy I was… I know Husband does ;)

Already this year, I suffered an unfortunate loss…

My car died :(

According to the man at Jiffy Lube, who I am sure knew his stuff, I blew a head gasket. Pretty sure that’s a $5 part and a $1500 repair bill. Husband and I have put so much money in to that car.

When I told him, he looked at me and said: “I think its time to buy a car.” So guess what we did during my technology break!

WE BOUGHT A CAR! And by “bought,” I mean we have a loan and a car payment and boo… but we totally have a new(er) car! Yay!

If I did not stop teaching at WSU and start working at the bank full-time, Husband and I would not have been able to buy a car to replace my dead Grand Am. My mother and her husband will work on the broken car. Here is my apology: I’m sorry I broke it! Thank you for letting me drive it for so long.

Speaking of my job… I love it! Research is one of my favorite activities. I was the weird kid in school who loved writing research papers. I don’t write whole papers at work – no time for that – but I write plenty of little reports!

Giddy with excitement <—- ME.

Prepare yourselves for some serious link-blogging because I am back.

Food Insecurity Part IV: The Research

The fall semester is over which means my Health Communication class is finished.

Remember reading here, here and here?

We entered the research stage three weeks ago, and I finished my research last Thursday. We present our findings on Friday, but I’ll let you have a sneak peek.

The hunger awareness initiative was developed to determine the nature and scope of food security within the WSU community. My research specifically focused on graduate students, including graduate teaching assistants.

I have a soft spot for my fellow grad students.

The class collected data in the form of “hunger stories” by administering a survey and directing focus group discussions. The people who responded to the survey and/or participated in the focus groups volunteered to do so. We had no other incentive than getting information from our population. All we could do was ask.

The response was not as large as I had hoped, and certainly not as large as many of my classmates hoped, but our sample was large enough to collect at least five “hunger stories” for each research goal.

My goal was to determine if graduate students at WSU suffered from food security issues and hunger. I chose five graduate students, three of whom were graduate teaching assistants. I knew they were graduate students because of the information they provided. Otherwise, the survey and discussions were confidential.

No names. No signatures.

And that’s how it has to be done. If you want to do community-based ground-up research, you must act as an investigator – interviewing, researching, reporting – in an attempt to find out if a problem really exists. The population tells you a problem exists; you don’t tell them.

Our research was not quantitative; it was qualitative.

I took the five “hunger stories” and applied an inductive coding technique using thematic analysis to discover similarities among the stories.

I let the data speak for itself, and I found five overall themes in the data: family, living minimally, school, jobs and food assistance.

What I found surprised me.

Two categories existed under family: support and no support. The most interesting of which I titled “independence” and categorized under no family support. For one graduate student, it was more important to do it on her own than to ask for help.

Some respondents said they had grown up poor or had lived through hard times and just knew how to spend within their means. One graduate student, whose reported yearly income was not high, claimed she felt she earned enough to feel secure by living minimally.

School was important to every student in my sample. School was paramount. School was the solution, and school was the problem.

Jobs came up in every story, too. Some graduate students worked more than one part-time job to make ends meet while in school. One graduate student couldn’t find work because of his degree choice: When you want to be a doctor, you cannot do anything else. Layoffs and lost businesses also appeared in the research.

Finally, food assistance appeared in differing degrees and manners. Some students felt they did not deserve; others felt that they didn’t need it. Some were jealous of people who had it. Others were annoyed with the people who used it. Food assistance programs, in this country, are necessary and can help feed so many hungry people, but the people will not talk openly and honestly about their needs.

How can a food assistance program work when we cannot find the people who need it?

That’s what our initiative was about. Find the people who need the help and figuring out how to help them. I hope my research and my continued work with this information helps identify a solution.

I know WSU graduate students are hungry. I know WSU undergrads are hungry. I know there are people in Wichita community who are hungry.

I want to find a way to feed them.

Food Insecurity Part II: My village fed me

Read Part I: Numana for the background, and then come back for more. Check out WSU Hunger Awareness for more information about our work.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” –African proverb

A village did not raise me.

But more than the standard family unit aided in my care and upbringing.

My mother had me when she was young, and raised me as a single parent. However, single parent did not mean alone. Without being asked, without being told, without hesitation, my mother’s parents, her older sister and older brother, her aunts, uncles and cousins, rushed to help us.

A village did not raise me.

But a neighborhood ensured my safety.

My mother worked multiple jobs and odd hours for the first years of my life. If my grandparents could not watch me, then neighbors and family friends rose up to meet the need.

A village did not raise me.

But a community helped me grow.

My grandparents were well-known in my hometown. Once, my family had owned and operated a local grocer. My grandfather was a salesman and my grandmother worked at the bank. My mother worked at the only restaurant in town. I grew up at the grocery store, at the bank, at the restaurant. The community knew me, and the community grew me.

A village did not raise me, unless a village is an interacting system of family, friends, neighbors and community members.

When a child suffers because single parent really does mean alone…

When a child suffers because working three jobs still fails to put food on the table…

When a child suffers because a community cannot rise up to meet the need…

When a child is hungry…

I see in the world an attitude that says, “My village will not raise this child.”

Children do not choose to be born into food insecure households and poor socioeconomic conditions. However, it is the children who suffer most when parents, communities and the system cannot rise up to meet their nutritional needs.

According to Feeding America, a United States’ domestic hunger-relief charity, insufficient nutrition negatively affects a child’s physical, developmental and social health.

Hunger puts children at risk for illness.

Without proper nutrition, a child’s developing immune system will fail to mature to its fullest potential leading to increased risk of infection, illness and hospitalization.

Hunger deters the development of memory, cognition, language, motor ability, social interaction, behavior and perception.

Without proper nutrition, children are more likely to have initial problems with speaking, behavior and movement, which could later lead to problems with attention, learning and social interaction.

Hunger causes poor academic performance.

Without proper nutrition, children’s physical and cognitive development suffer, which leads to inevitable problems with poor grades, truancy, anxiety, aggression and social interaction dysfunction.

When Feed the Children requests help feeding children across the globe, what do you feel?

When a child’s behavior goes against social norms, either through behaving badly or strangely, what do you think?

Do you pity one and castigate the other?

One of the United States Department of Agriculture’s strategic goals for fiscal year 2010-2015 aims to, “Ensure that all of America’s children have access to safe, nutritious and balanced meals.”

According to the USDA, more than 16 million children lived in food insecure households in America in 2010. – Feeding America

It is 2011. Why are the children still hungry?

Start the discussion in your community today.