SVSU Student Leaders Fight Hunger in the GLB Region

Fewer children in the Great Lakes Bay Region are going hungry, thanks to the volunteer efforts of five Saginaw Valley State University students who volunteered their time and raised money for the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan as part of their service project for the Roberts Fellowship program, a select leadership program at SVSU.

The participating students were:
• Mara Berton, a theatre major from Howell
• Alicia Flynn, a double major in mathematics and chemistry secondary education from Monroe
• Megan Gerulski, an international studies and management major from Bay City
• Sean Hammond, a biology major from Potterville
• Ashley Hanson, a double major in political science and criminal justice from Sanford

The Roberts Fellows helped promote the food bank's BackPack program, which aims to provide children at risk of hunger with easy access to healthy, non-perishable food items that meet their weekend nutritional needs. Run without federal funding, the program provides more than 3,500 students with a backpack every weekend and has grown from five to 75 schools, now in 11 different counties.

“The Food Bank is very excited about the work the Robert Fellows group completed and their contributions will have a lasting impact for the BackPack Program, which will affect many children now and in the future,” said Kathleen Payton, program coordinator for the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

To spread the word throughout the community, the students:
• redesigned the program's sponsorship brochure
• created additional brochures to call attention to child hunger
• created a donation agreement and Facebook page
• taped public service announcements to air on local radio stations
• creating a video to educate and promote the program
• set up volunteer groups in the Saginaw Public Schools to pack the bags every weekend
• assisted in packing bags at Longfellow Elementary School in Saginaw

Additionally, the students raised enough money to bring the program to Chester Miller Elementary School in Saginaw, where 24 impoverished students will receive a backpack of food every weekend for the entire school year.

“The Roberts Fellows group created engaging and creative promotional campaigns, educational resources to raise awareness in our 22-county service area,” Payton said. “With their help, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan was able to increase funding for the BackPack Program by 20 percent. This year's growth would not have been possible without them.”

Students selected to the Roberts Fellowship program are required to complete a three-credit Leadership Seminar in the fall and winter semesters within one or more academic departments. During the year, the Fellows will also meet for informal seminars and discussions with various political, business and civic leaders from throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Established in 1999, the program is named in honor of Donna Roberts of Midland, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to SVSU through her personal generosity and prior service on the Board of Control and the Board of Fellows. A respected attorney, business leader and philanthropist, Roberts retired from The Dow Chemical Company, where she was Secretary and Assistant General Counsel. She is an honorary director of the SVSU Foundation Board.