By: Helena Wolenski
On March 6, the Miami University Institute for Entrepreneurship kicked off their 3rd annual Social Innovation Weekend in the Farmer School of Business. Students from across 33 majors worked through 48 hours of intense brainstorming and workshops as they tried to develop new programs to tackle the social issue that was this year’s theme: food insecurity.
Simply put, food insecurity describes a family or person’s inability to provide enough food to sustain a healthy living. Currently in the United States, 1 in 9 people are living without food security. That estimate equates to about 37 million Americans in food insecurity, with more than 11 million of them being children. In Hamilton County alone, 139,170 people live in food insecure households. However, this devastating issue intersects with others, as families that face food insecurity oftentimes are also living in poverty and struggle with higher rates of illnesses.
Hunger in the Cincinnati area isn’t a relatively new problem, however. The inspiration for the theme of this year’s Social Innovation Weekend comes from a real and relevant issue that affects so many people in Hamilton County and even in the Miami University community. Tara Hope, Assistant Director in Miami’s John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship, emphasized how important it is that the campus community refrains from making assumptions about the exposure Miami students have to food insecurity. All 24 of this year’s student teams worked compassionately towards a common goal of ending hunger.
The teams had 48 hours to design a program or service that included an efficient business model to directly address food insecurity in Cincinnati. Because not everyone involved was an expert in sustainable practices and social work, 53 mentors were recruited from a variety of sponsors in the area to work with the teams.
Finally, at the end of a sleepless 48 hours, the students got to present their innovative ideas in an opening round for a chance to be amongst the top five teams to present to the panel of mentors and sponsors. Every team had such inspiring ways to approach this social challenge, but ultimately, the one that came out on top was Press Juice.
This team came up with a plan to lengthen the shelf life of fresh produce and improve food insecurity while also limiting food waste. Their goal was to take reclaimed food from restaurants and markets that weren’t fit to be sold and donate the juice to local food banks. The waste could then be composted and given back to farmers in need of quality fertilizer.
All of the work done by the participants this past weekend has not gone unnoticed. Advocacy and education are the most important steps towards combating these social issues. The passion and eagerness that the students showed with their vibrant ideas present hope for a generation working towards a better future.
GreenHawks Media had two staff writers, Sammy Harris (far left) and Makayla Archer, participate in Social Innovation Weekend. We’re so proud to have staff passionate about driving change in all different campus pursuits and areas of University life!
Photo courtesy of Sammy Harris