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Sahm award extends UGA resources to Athens nonprofit fighting food insecurity

A partnership between the University of Georgia and an Athens nonprofit is helping elementary and middle school students learn about healthy eating, urban agriculture and working in the food industry.

The work between the UGA School of Social Work and Farm to Neighborhood is one of five local projects selected for 2023 to receive a total of nearly $40,000 in awards from the Bobbi Meeler Sahm Service and Outreach Award program facilitated by UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO).

The endowment established by Sahm, an Athens native and UGA alumna, helps UGA make an impact in the Athens-Clarke County community by partnering with local organizations to help address local challenges. The fund, held by the UGA Foundation, benefits Athens-Clarke County residents by supporting university faculty and student programs focused on community service and outreach. Inspired by the gift and the local impact it will have, UGA President Jere W. Morehead directed a $100,000 contribution to this fund using discretionary funds provided to him by the UGA Athletic Association.

The eight week program gives students the opportunity to learn about and sample healthy foods. Photo by Shannah Montgomery/UGA

Farm to Neighborhood was founded by Rashe Malcolm, owner of Rashe’s Cuisine, to help Athens-Clarke County residents with limited incomes overcome food insecurity. She started the HEALTHYouth program to help elementary and middle school youth develop healthy eating habits and learn about the food industry. Meeting weekly, participants learn about nutrition, healthy meal planning and budgeting tips. The most recent class completed its eight-week session in August.

“We are excited about this partnership with the School of Social Work, and we look forward to putting more of the University of Georgia’s resources into our program to give kids a foundation for success when it comes to food and nutrition,” says Malcolm, who also has worked with UGA through the UGA Small Business Development Center.

Rashe Malcolm talks to participants and their families. Photo by Shannah Montgomery/UGA

Philip Hong, who is entering his second year as the dean of the School of Social Work, said that following UGA’s impactful initiatives that serve communities across the state through PSO, the School of Social Work first wanted to build upon its engagement efforts with Athens.

Hong also said partnering with Malcolm for a Sahm project was a logical choice since the school has a history with Farm to Neighborhood. Tony Mallon, director of the School of Social Work’s Institute for Nonprofit Organizations, has collaborated with Malcolm on grant writing projects, and the school provides student interns for Farm to Neighborhood.

“By starting locally, it was my hope that there would be an opportunity where we can make some connections and serve through the PSO initiative and be one of the arms as an academic unit to provide opportunities for our students to enhance experiential learning and service learning, and also turn those hours into community impact,” says Hong. “I was very excited about this first step, to be able to go in and connect through the resources provided by the Sahm award.”

Malcolm and Hong developed a class curriculum for HEALTHYouth by adding healthy food and snack awareness, access, growing, and preparation contents to a workforce development and social-emotional learning guide written by Hong called the “Transforming Impossible into Possible (TIP).” HEALTHYouth will continue to utilize the guide, while the Sahm funding will help buy food and supplies for the program. Malcolm also wants to expand the program to include young adults.

At a recent HEALTHYouth session, Malcolm gave a lesson in portion size and nutritional value.

Nibraysha Neal enjoys her apple at the HEALTHYouth program. Photo by Shannah Montgomery/UGA

Nibraysha Neal, now a fourth-grader at Gaines School Elementary, pinched a red Skittles candy piece between her finger and thumb while holding an apple in her other hand. The size difference was apparent, but when Malcolm said the Skittles piece contains more sugar than the apple, Nibraysha and the others responded in wide-eyed wonder.

“Wow!” they said.

Malcolm told the kids that it’s OK to have sugary snacks in moderation. Nibraysha already seemed to be soaking up the lesson. Instead of eating the candy, she was enjoying her juicy apple one small bite at a time.

Applications for the Bobbi Meeler Sahm Service and Outreach Award open on Oct. 23. Find more information about the application process here.

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