The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 3, 2012

Potential social work students work on front lines of hunger

Community organizations serving up perspective

They say you learn better by doing.

So this summer, students aiming to be admitted to Minnesota State University’s social work program are getting thrown into a little doing.

“The idea is to put them out into the field before they come into the major,” said their social work professor, Debra Gohagan. “It will give them an idea, or help them get a picture of what social services are all about, show them people whose life circumstances are quite different from their own.”

To that end, potential social work students have been dispatched to a handful of organizations in Mankato that work with people who are hungry.

Some will work with the Backpack Food Program. Others will be at the Salvation Army. Some are helping out at the E.C.H.O. Food Shelf, the Campus Kitchen program or the community garden run by the Center for Earth and Spirituality.

The idea is for the students to be on the front lines of hunger in the community. From that vantage point, it’s easier for them to see the humans behind the hunger.

By the end of the week, the students working with Heather Spann at the Salvation Army hadn’t gotten too thick into the work they’ll be doing. But they’d already seen enough.

The students there will primarily be working with the Salvation Army’s Mobile Outreach Meals program, which delivers hot meals to five locations around Mankato. They’ll be helping prepare meals, serving them on site, and coming up with creative things for kids to do while the mobile meal vehicle is at the site.

In their short time so far, though, they’ve already witnessed a side of Mankato most college students don’t see. The other day a man came just looking for a place to shower.

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