Students at Harold Washington College Fight Hunger with the Grocery Game
For more than two years, Assistant Professor of English Kristin Bivens has given her freshman writing students a unique assignment: to stretch a budget of $150 to do as much good as possible.
“It is called The Grocery Game,” she says. “It is an eight week-writing game where students collaboratively write for a specific audience: a Chicago not-for-profit they choose.”
Taught in her English 101 classes at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, the Grocery Game encourages students to think strategically about making an impact in their community. And in the spring of 2015, students of the winning team completed a project that resulted in a generous donation of canned goods and other foods to Lakeview Pantry.
“The Grocery Game was my effort to get students to participate more as active citizens in Chicago, while also developing college-level written, interpersonal and oral communication skills framed with a context of ethical decision making, rhetoric and collaboration,” Kristin shares.
In the game, students are given a budget of $150, and then use their writing skills to write proposals, emails, memos and shopping lists to demonstrate how they would maximize their money to help those in need.
This year’s winning team used coupons and shopping strategies to purchase pastas, rice, canned veggies, tuna and other staples that were donated to Lakeview Pantry. The donation will go a long way toward feeding people in Lakeview – and perhaps even feeding the families of some of Kristin’s students.
“Some of my students are, regretfully, food insecure. I don’t ask, but it’s statistically likely,” she says. “Some have been clients at Lakeview Pantry and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and they tell me they want to help.”
Kristin explains that talking about food insecurity in her class isn’t going to help her students “fill their shopping carts or stomachs for themselves and their families.” But, she says, “the strategies we discuss in class like shopping and couponing strategically can help do that.”
And with nearly 500 students having participated in the game during past two years, the impact of the Grocery Game is multiplying. “I have seen my students continue to engage with the community. Some continue on as volunteers with their chosen not-for-profits. Some come visit me with some of their former team members.”
“The Grocery Game provides a framework,” Kristin continues. “[The students] are responsible for their success and engagement, not me or the Grocery Game. I think they find that empowering – that they can have an impact on Chicago and those that need food.”
If you’d like to learn more about how you can support Lakeview Pantry, you can check out some other creative ways our friends have supported us here.