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Duke grad students helping Food for Thought

A team of Duke University graduate students have come together to help Food for Thought in its effort to feed hungry school children in Salisbury and Rowan County.
Seven students from the Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators program will be performing research and analysis on the logistics and operations of Food for Thought to come up with suggestions for how the nonprofit group can enhance its efficiency and better serve the student population. The program is also working on developing tools to assess the organization’s effectiveness and measure the impact of Food for Thought’s work in the community. The Duke program is a unique organization that brings together students from across Duke University graduate programs to work on interdisciplinary consulting projects for nonprofit organizations.
“Food for Thought is extremely fortunate to be in a position to benefit from the skills and talents of these Duke University graduate students,” said Tory Curran, executive director for Food for Thought. “DISI has enabled Food for Thought to access a high level of consulting services that would otherwise have been out of reach to a small non-profit such as ourselves. The work that DISI is doing on behalf of Food for Thought will have a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of our organization.”
Kaitlin Carr, an MBA Candidate in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, is the project manager for the Duke team.
“For me, it’s very exciting to work with people tackling such a large problem as food insecurity,” said Carr. “Food for Thought’s mission and its people are very inspiring. And I have really enjoyed partnering with them to help make the organization stronger.
“Our team is comprised of students with very different backgrounds. But our different skill sets complement each other and enable us to have many different perspectives,” said Carr. “We are able to use the skills we are gaining in our degree programs in a very hands-on way, while adding meaningful value to nonprofits such as Food for Thought.”
One of Carr’s teammates is South Rowan High School alumnus Darryl Childers of China Grove, who is a master’s degree candidate in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. Childers gained his bachelor’s degree in history from Davidson College in 2004 after graduating from South Rowan in 2000.
“I think I’ve always had in mind that I would like to come back to Rowan County and give back, because there were so many people that helped me along the way when I was younger,” said Childers, who expects to graduate in 2014. “My parents, Christopher and Rena, were the main ones that helped me along. But there were a lot of difference makers. There were some really good elementary school teachers who gave me a good base, such as Becky Withers in fourth grade at China Grove Elementary School. She was awesome and demanded a lot from me. Also, Sue Dodd, my fifth-grade teacher, was another one that set high expectations.”
The Duke team also includes Rachel Pittenger, MPP candidate, Sanford School of Public Policy; Emily Malkin, MBA candidate, Fuqua School of Business; Sara Overton, MEM candidate, Nicholas School of the Environment; Keith LeGrone, MEM candidate, Pratt School of Engineering; and Anuraag Mishra, MEM candidate, Pratt School of Engineering.
Food for Thought is a community backpack program that sends children from food-insecure families home with easy-to-prepare meals at the end of each school week. The organization serves students at Cleveland, Granite Quarry, Hanford-Dole, Isenberg, Knollwood, Koontz, North Rowan, Overton, Shive and Woodleaf elementary schools. A pilot program was begun this year for sixth-grade students at Knox, Southeast and West middle schools.
More information about Food for Thought can be found at www.ncfoodforthought.org, or on Facebook. Search Food for Thought.

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