We live in a world where many go hungry while others waste food. What if we entrusted our students to design STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) solutions that save and reuse resources to create sustainable systemic change? What if we gave them the space and time – inside and outside the four walls of the classroom – to collaborate, innovate, and reimagine narratives surrounding need in their communities?
In Pittsburgh, where 1 in 3 residents suffers from food instability, students representing eight diverse neighborhood schools have fed hungry families by redistributing 15,000 lbs. of perishable foods from Trader Joe’s that would have otherwise been wasted. By reclaiming and evenly dividing the food, students are connecting with others and learning how to manage need in their communities. They have brainstormed long-term solutions using STEM; are organizing and leading action; and imagining a different future. These students are exploring sustainable solutions by designing community gardens, hydroponics, packages that extend shelf life, and a community food truck.
Ty, a high school senior who used to be homeless, knows firsthand what’s it’s like to be hungry. Today, he is one of many students using STEM to link communities. According to Ty, ”STEM is an important part of my life just as much as air is, other people aren’t aware of how important it really is, or really should be…We want to use what we know and collaborate with other students dedicated to projects using STEM to increase the quality of life for people.” Ty, and his peers, need our support to create long-lasting changes that promote social justice. As educators, adults, and supporters, we can enable our students in this journey toward sustainable change. They are the decision-makers; they are experiencing the importance of compassion, creativity, and innovation. They are the agents of change.
This project’s work will reverberate throughout their communities and beyond; it has the ability to “be the change we wish to see in the world” and rewrite negative narratives about who we are and what we do to lift one another toward a better tomorrow (Gandhi).