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The issue of food insecurity at college is one that often goes unnoticed. For most, the burden of paying tuition is undeniably overwhelming—but many do not realize that there are students who have to choose between lunch or textbooks. Luckily, groups at Temple University are working to bring more awareness and assistance to those in need.

Donated cans in the shape of an owl
Sculpture from Fox’s Business Communications office

Hunter Speakman, a freshman in the Temple University Management Consulting Program (TUMCP), heard a colleague mention “can sculptures” as a team-building exercise. Speakman, along with his peers and the program’s academic director Tony Seeton, assistant professor of strategic management, decided this could be a great opportunity for students to give back to their community. 

On Dec. 6, Speakman and his team organized a contest where Temple University community members made elaborate sculptures out of donated canned goods. The event aimed to raise awareness and gather food for the Cherry Pantry, a Temple program dedicated to providing students in need access to healthy and nutritious food. The Cherry Pantry, located on the second floor of the Howard Gittis Student Center, is the main source of emergency food for students on campus.

“There was a recent survey done in colleges in the United States that found 30% of college students are food insecure,” Speakman explains. “The pantry told us they typically get about 175 students a week. But with a campus of tens of thousands of students, there are definitely more than that who are in need.”

By hosting the event, Speakman was hoping to raise awareness and support the Cherry Pantry in their efforts. But the turnout was greater than he could have imagined.

Overall, nine major campus organizations competed in the event: Fox Graduate Admissions, Morgan Hall North, the international women’s music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota, Temple Towers, the Student Collaboration Center, Temple Ambler, the Fox Business Communications Center, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The only rule of the competition was that the cans had to remain intact and with the labels on. Even so, that didn’t keep the competitors from coming up with some unique structures.

Bell Tower shaped can sculpture
Student Collaboration Center sculpture of the Bell Tower

“Each group made an entirely different structure. One built an owl, another one the Bell Tower. One group even made a space shuttle,” says Speakman. 

The Student Collaboration Center won the competition with their sculpture of the Bell Tower. The Fox Business Communication Center and Temple Ambler were runners up. The Fox School’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, led by Assistant Dean James Hansen, sponsored prizes for the winners. 

The scale of the event was “much larger than we could’ve imagined,” says Speakman. Participants donated about 750 pounds of cans, plus 250 additional nonperishable goods. 

The impact of a fun, creative event like this goes way beyond just constructing with cans. It is a demonstration of the school’s commitment to an engaged community, a pillar of the Fox Strategic Plan. Speakman, along with the participants from across the university, recognizes that this sense of community and support is crucial to eliminating food insecurity at Temple. 

“There are so many students just coming to college that already have a lot of financial pressure put on them and their family,” says Speakman. “So to have access to a can of soup, some beans or pasta is a huge help so they don’t have to worry about what they’re eating.”

Speakman and the TUMCP team proved that a community that comes together ”can” make a change.

Support the Cherry Pantry by visiting their website.

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