Una Nursing Students Feed Area School Children Through Project Munch
Feb. 21, 2013
FLORENCE, Ala. - Between time spent studying for classes, attending clinical and simulation lab rotations, mentoring fundamental level nursing students and preparing for their state board licensure test, nursing students at the University of North Alabama are devoting efforts to a new service project that is keeping children from two local elementary schools fed through the weekends. In their final semester, UNA nursing students are strongly by faculty to engage in some type of community service. This semester, they have been heavily involved with Project MUNCH (Making UNforgettable Children Less Hungry), a project designed and initiated by Dr. Kristy Oden, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Allied Health. The idea behind the project is to ensure that elementary-age students are supplied with meals during the weekend. Nursing students participate in Project MUNCH by purchasing non-perishable food and drinks themselves, preparing the food in gallon-size bags and delivering the bags to the school for distribution every Friday afternoon. Oden said that Project MUNCH has gained momentum since gaining support from the Student Nurses' Association (SNA). Project MUNCH currently supplies food to 10 children weekly in a Colbert County elementary school and 20 children weekly in a Franklin County elementary school. "It is unimaginable in 2013 to think of children hungry in our area, but it is a reality," Oden said. "I wanted to do something about it." Oden said supplies cost at least $5 per bag. A food drive is tentatively scheduled for March before spring break, and Project MUNCH is accepting donations in the meantime. Dr. Jennifer Dawson, instructor of pediatric nursing at UNA, said students do not receive a grade for their service. Rather, students get involved because they see the benefits both for the community and for preparation for their professional careers. "So much a part of nursing is taking care of your community," she said. Dawson said nursing students assist wherever a need arises in the community, including after-school reading programs, free health screenings and community clinics, often in collaboration with other local schools and non-profit organizations. Every August, nursing students help with provide free health screenings for Give-A-Kid-A-Chance, an event to help low-income families equip their children for each new school year. The students also partner with SightSavers America, and they work with nursing students from Northwest-Shoals Community College and Florence City Schools every spring to provide health screenings for KidCheck, a child safety program. Most students post their volunteer experiences in online discussion boards. Dawson said that volunteerism not only gives students a "venue to share their experience," but the utilization of discussion boards also prompts students to reflect on their service, get feedback from others, create a good networking base and prepare for graduate-level courses that utilize discussion boards. For more information or to donate to Project MUNCH, contact Dawson at email@example.com or Kristy Oden at firstname.lastname@example.org.