Embedded in its mission to educate and empower students to build a better world, Saint Ursula Academy provides families of Cincinnati basic necessities through its 2018 Community Food D.R.I.V.E initiative.

According to Feeding America, in Ohio alone one in six people struggles with hunger and one in five children struggles with hunger. In response to the city’s high poverty and child hunger rates, St. Ursula is working towards being part of the solution by combining direct and indirect service opportunities for its students.

D.R.I.V.E.—Donate, Respond, Invest, Value and Educate—aligns with SUA’s teaching strategy to educate students about developing broader community views, building relationships and meeting the needs of their neighbors. “We wanted to focus on educating our school community and make it more individualized and personal. We are all connected and one person’s needs affect all of us,” says Rachel Kemper, service learning director.

For three weeks in February, students in each homeroom paired with different households to gather non-perishable food, hygiene products, grocery gift cards, cleaning supplies, blankets and other personal care items. This year, instead of taking place before Christmas, the outreach occurred after the holiday season when financial assistance is needed the most.

Instead of blindly collecting items to stock shelves at a pantry, SUA collaborated with local nonprofits in the area—Center for Respite Care, St. Vincent de Paul, Episcopal Retirement Services, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries and Roll Hill Community Center—to provide requested items tailored specifically to each family’s needs.

Different from food drives in the past, senior students, faculty and staff delivered the items personally to different agencies and households. “This way we really saw the impact we were making!” says Eva Caudill, D.R.I.V.E. student organizer.

Prior to delivery day, the students exchanged postcards with the various households connected to the different partner agencies in an effort to share information and get to know one another before meeting on March 2 (the scheduled day of delivery).

“We are attempting to make it more of an opportunity for personal connection and getting to know others in our local community who we may not otherwise get to meet,” adds Kemper.

In addition to the collection of nutritious, shelf-stable food and hygiene products, the SUA community collected monetary donations that will assist local families with the purchase of fresh food items. “The most monumental impact of D.R.I.V.E. was 100 percent participation,” says Caudill. “We made it mandatory to donate money or actual items towards the family. This makes our community stronger and our mission statement stay true to what we believe.”

“We are very lucky to have great partnerships and working relationships with local nonprofits that help us provide educational experiences about issues of justice, as well as opportunities for our students to contribute to the greater good locally,” says Kemper.


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