Maggie Griffin remembers the moment she was inspired to take action.
The Ohio State senior took a study break late one night and walked to a nearby convenience store. Inside, she saw a family doing their weekly shopping, relying on frozen meals because they didn't have access to fresh, healthful produce.
It just so happened that Maggie, a student in the College of Social Work, was writing a paper about food insecurity. Maggie always knew the need was there. According to the nation's largest hunger-relief group, Feeding America, 16 percent of Ohio residents are food insecure. But until that moment, Maggie had never put a face to the issue.
"There were real people behind those numbers," she says.
Maggie had found her passion, but she needed some help. With the power of Ohio State to make connections, she carried out her vision.
Maggie had an idea to create community fridges that would be placed in neighborhoods around Columbus. She emailed Michelle Kaiser, an assistant professor in the College of Social work, who had experience with community gardens. Kaiser connected Maggie with Ohio State's Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory, a working farm and research lab where Maggie could actually grow and harvest the produce.
She was more motivated than ever. Maggie submitted her proposal for the inaugural President’s Prize, an initiative created by Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. The prize provides a $50,000 living stipend and $50,000 for project expenses to help ambitious students who have plans to transform communities. Maggie couldn’t believe it when she was picked as one of two winners to receive the funding.
Set up for real change, Maggie worked with Kaiser to put her plan into action. OSU Extension’s Master Gardener Program gave her the farming skills she needed to plant and harvest crops. With the help of fellow students, Maggie grew fresh fruits and vegetables and delivered them to social service centers throughout the city, including a center for pregnant mothers and a community health clinic.
"Seeing that first person being able to take that bag of produce home, and knowing that through this program we were able to make an impact, is incredibly emotional," she says.
In the first four months of the program, Maggie delivered close to 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to her neighbors in need. She's created a thriving program that can continue for years to come.
"I was lucky enough to find my passion, but then Ohio State was there to support me," she says. "I didn't know that I was capable of doing anything like this."