Service Learning and Food Security

Christie Flynn
Service Learning/Pierce College


Service Learning and Food Security is a two-credit course that uses practical examples, local demographics, and community connections to examine issues of food security. Students connect classroom learning with community service through volunteering and a community mapping project that benefits a local food bank.

Course Size:

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is a two credit elective with no pre-requisites. Students spend ten hours in class and spend twenty hours working on the service project and/or at the service site. Many students who have enrolled in this course were drawn to it because it was two-credits: students who want to be full-time but are not ready for 15 credits can take this course along with two 5 credit course to maintain full-time status. This course also appeals to students who are interested in or have had positive volunteer experiences in the past, or students who have taken the sustainiability seminar or the food themed English 101. Most students, however, have had very limited exposure to issues of food security, sustainability, or service.

Course Content:

"Service Learning and Food Security" connects students to food issues in the local community. Students are introduced to issues of sustainability, poverty, hunger, food deserts, nutrition, and community service learning through readings, discussions, and class activities. One of our community partners from the Pierce County Gleaning Project, the Food Connection or L'Honey visits the classroom before our service project to introduce the service project and to make the connections between what we have read and discussed and what we are about to experience when we begin our community engagement. Students hear statistics and stories that bring the community into the classroom. Students then engage in twenty hours of service. Reflection activities throughout the process focus on key questions around food security as well as personal reflection.

Course Goals:

· Analyze and identify community needs and community partner expectations.

· Reflect on the meaning of service and the relationship between self and community.

· Demonstrate professionalism, integrity, accountability and courtesy in the classroom and during the community engagement project.

· Synthesize knowledge of complex relationships underlying the larger community and its constituents.

· Acquire direct experience leading or being of service within the community.

· Critically examine personally held biases or assumptions regarding parts of the community with which the student was previously unfamiliar.

· Practice skills of communication within the context of service work.

Course Features:

During the ten hours in class, students explore the issues of food security through discussion, activities and reflection.

The discussions take place in class and online and are focused on an article that each student has read. Students are expected to summarize issues as well as form an opinion about the topic. The community partners come to class to share information about sustainability, hunger, and poverty in our community and how their agency responds to these issues. They bring current statistics and demographics for the county and the populations that they serve as well as how they serve. Students ask questions and have a conversation in class and then submit a written response the following week in class.

Class activities serve as a pre-service experience. In the quarter where we worked with the Food Connection on the Backpack Projects, students brought food items to donate to the backpack project. They combined what they brought with other donated items to fill bags that will be distributed to children through the BackPack project. At the end of the activity, students participate in a reflection activity. (A detailed description of this reflection activity is attached.)

Students spend some of their twenty service hours in direct service, either gleaning fruit or delivering, packing, or serving food. Students also spend some of their twenty hours of service completing a project for the community partner. Past projects have included:

  • using Google Maps (Earth) to create an interactive map that individuals can use to find out where and when they can make a donation of fresh produce in Pierce County.
  • creating a "How to run a food drive" webpage for the agency to post for organizations who want to run a food drive.


Some class reflections are about students personal experience, thoughts or feelings and are graded as a journal response. More specific criteria is applied to the reflections that are a response to an article or a speaker. Students are assessed on their writing, communication, as well as the ability to both summarize and evaluate content.

Students submit a contract and a log sheet for the twenty service hours.


Service Learning Syllabus (Microsoft Word 74kB Oct26 12)

Teaching Materials:

This is a sample of an in class activity that is a mini-service project and reflection: InClass Work_Backpack Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Nov19 12)

References and Notes: