M.S.W. student zooms in on hunger awareness

Colorado State University social work student Mallory Andrews
Photo by Davis Bonner

Story by Tricia Howley

Colorado State University social work student Mallory Andrews wants you to focus — literally — on food insecurity, and show what it really looks like to be hungry in your local community.

Andrews is overseeing Lights, Camera, Take Action!, a film festival sponsored by FoCo Cafe, a nonprofit restaurant in Fort Collins, where she is completing an internship as part of her field education coursework in the advanced standing M.S.W. program before graduating in May.

The festival’s call for short films and photography highlighting food insecurity and poverty in Fort Collins is currently open for submissions with a deadline of April 23. Selected works will be showcased at the festival event on May 5.

‘In our backyard’

“People know that food insecurity is a problem, but assume it’s happening somewhere else … it’s in our backyard,” Andrews said. “Thirty-three percent of kids that go to school in Larimer County are on free or reduced lunch, so when there’s no school, what are they going to do? I feel like a lot of people just don’t really see the full scope of the issue, and that is no fault of their own.”

Three students from CSU’s President’s Leadership Program have been working on the film festival for FoCo Cafe, where Andrews has been assisting the director for the last seven months. “As part of my internship I wanted a leadership role because I’m hoping to get into administration and management,” Andrews said.

Social work appeals to her, she says, because she’s always been a people person and liked the variety in the field. “The MSW program here is a generalist perspective, so that’s another reason I chose to come back to CSU for the master’s program, because of the range of opportunities it would provide.”

For her internship work this year, Andrews wanted to try something different. Associate Field Education Director Liz Davis suggested FoCo Cafe as something nontraditional. “I’m super glad I did it. I feel like I’ve grown tenfold through that because it’s such a small organization, so I had a bigger role,” said Andrews.

Filling director’s shoes

When the agency’s director had to go out of town, Andrews was able to step into her shoes and do what a director would do. “I would go to award luncheons, do presentations — all sorts of stuff, where I would see the non-profit development director or executive director from other organizations, and then there was me!”

“It was really great having those networking opportunities among everything else,” Andrews said. “I’ve written 15 grants and gotten three approved so far, it’s been a really powerful experience and I’ve grown a lot. I’m very grateful for it.”

Andrews notes that special events to build awareness are crucial to the success of FoCo Cafe’s “pay-what-you-can” restaurant model for addressing hunger in Fort Collins. “The meal donations make up about 70 percent of our total income,” she said.

“Donations for meals are the livelihood of the Cafe for the most part,” Andrews said. “The location is right near Old Town, so we get a lot of people on their lunch breaks, and it’s a community-centered space where we host meetings and community-run projects. It’s got a versatile presence where there’s something for everyone.”

About the festival

Lights, Camera, Take Action! is also a “pay-what-you-can” event for attendees. Awards and prizes will be given to artists in each of four categories: Youth, College, Community and Photography. Visit the event submissions page for more information and a link to upload files.

Andrews hopes Lights, Camera, Take Action! will help people to see the complexity of food insecurity, poverty, homelessness, food equality, food justice and access to healthy eating in the local community, and be inspired to learn more. “I’d love people to come to the cafe and see what we’re doing in addition to being present at the film festival. There is so much more to see, learn and do,” Andrews said. “I want it to be known that it’s more than what we think it is.”

More information on the event can be found at: http://fococafe.org/lights-camera-take-action-film-festival/

The School of Social Work is part of Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.