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 said.
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 said.
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 said. "I didn't know that I was capable of doing anything like this."
The College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is a true representation of what a land-grant university is all about: educating students to find real solutions that will impact their state, nation and world.
The college prides itself on cutting-edge research and innovative outreach programs that help solve complex problems facing society, whether it's fighting viruses, improving water quality or tackling the issue of food security. Students in CFAES learn by engaging in real-world, hands-on research opportunities, from working on one of the university's farms to learning about ecosystems in a 30-acre wetland park. Given Ohio State's breadth of resources, students also have the opportunity to collaborate with other colleges across the university to tackle important issues.
Other opportunities abound at Ohio State's regional campuses, including the Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, which offers technical education in agriculture, horticulture, environmental sciences and other fields. The university's reach stretches to all 88 of the state's counties, as OSU Extension works across the state to enable communities and businesses to remain economically vibrant.
The College of Social Work was first accredited in 1919 and is the oldest continuously accredited public social work program in the country. The college is deeply rooted in Ohio State's history, with the very first social work course being offered in 1875.
Today, the college is a nationally recognized institution that focuses on training its students for 21st century issues and helping them respond to society's most vexing social problems. The College of Social Work is ranked 9th among public institutions and 17th overall among 240 graduate social work programs nationwide, according to the U.S. News & World Report's 2017 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools."
Innovative teaching, research and community engagement are closely integrated aspects of social work education at Ohio State. These components are enhanced through interdisciplinary collaborations with numerous academic partners across the university and in collaboration with nearly 800 community agencies.
At the College of Social Work, students are empowered to foster social change and apply their knowledge to positively impact people around the world.
Ohio State's College of Medicine is focused on one clear mission: improving health in Ohio and world through innovation in research, education and patient care. Students learn in state-of-the-art facilities, such as high-tech teaching labs. The college's advanced facilities and expert faculty provide students with a unique, innovative learning environment that few universities can offer.
Students gain hands-on experience early in the program through a practice-based clinical service that offers opportunities to apply classroom knowledge in actual patient-care settings, such as community health clinics. Students also deepen their educational experience by working hand-in-hand with other colleges across campus to solve complex problems.
Students in the college will be ready to push the boundaries of discovery and knowledge and drive breakthrough healthcare solutions that improve lives.
Ohio State's impact extends beyond campus into the surrounding communities. The Columbus Free Clinic, a community health clinic just north of the Ohio State campus, is one of the organizations receiving produce from Maggie's Unity Fridge project. Students from the colleges of Social Work, Pharmacy and Medicine, with assistance from faculty and other volunteers, run the clinic.
The clinic's doors are open to patients from the community. The students treat them for a variety of illnesses and also work to educate them about a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating fruits and vegetables.
"Maggie's produce is having a huge impact on the clinic's ability to address chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, where having a healthy diet is so important," said Ohio State's Dr. Robert Cooper, the faculty advisor for the clinic.