Dear Friend of Higher Education,
A great American tradition began in the fall of 1621 when Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered to celebrate the year's bountiful harvest. They joined one another for a feast lasting three days that we now know as the celebration of Thanksgiving and which remains deeply rooted in our culture today.
I find it of interest to note that one of the several things the Pilgrims were thankful for was their survival of the previous bitter winter that had taken the lives of many of the new settlers. As we celebrate Thanksgiving in Nevada in 2009, similarly, we cannot forget those among us who are suffering from the harsh economic climate gripping our state. There will be many Nevadans who will not have a traditional feast on their Thanksgiving table this year.
So it is appropriate to stop and shine a spotlight on those who work tirelessly to meet this most basic of human needs. While we find selfless people and organizations in every corner of our state, allow me to share the story of one of the many social service organizations your higher education system is proud to partner with: Three Square of Las Vegas
. I recently had the privilege of touring their operation and was overwhelmed by their generosity and effectiveness in helping Nevadans in need.
An independent and self-funded charity, the Three Square Food Bank has the simple mission "to provide wholesome food to hungry people while passionately pursuing a hunger-free community." The need is great. More than 45 percent of children in Clark County schools receive free or reduced meals. Approximately 225,000 Nevadans in Clark County live below the poverty line. To meet the needs of this population, Three Square distributed over 10 million pounds of food in 2008, or the equivalent of 8.5 million meals.
As proud and engaged members of the community in which they live, our faculty, staff and students are active participants in making Nevada a better place to call home. For example, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas partnered with Three Square to develop the 2008 Hunger Gap Analysis. This analysis is being used to provide a better understanding of the need for food assistance in Southern Nevada.
Since 2006, UNLV's School of Allied Health Sciences has also been providing assistance to Three Square in evaluating various projects including assessing the nutritional quality and effectiveness of Three Square's "BackPack for Kids" Program and the "Summer Food Service Program."
And there's more:
- The history department has documented the work of Three Square since its inception for a book on the Three Square model for others to emulate.
- The College of Business has been sending MBA students to work with the charity on a return on investment analysis for several recurring revenue projects.
- The Black Mountain Institute and Three Square worked in conjunction to bring two important events to Las Vegas: Three Square's Southern Nevada Hunger Symposium and BMI's "Food and Hunger: Eating in America." The events brought local and national leaders together on the topics of hunger and how to best address and solve the issue.
In addition, countless other UNLV entities, including the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, the William S. Boyd School of Law, the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, and the nutrition department in the School of Life Sciences, have provided invaluable input on several other projects designed to help Three Square better serve the community. In the past year alone, UNLV has provided four dietetic interns, five independent study students, and four paid research interns. In addition, UNLV students continually volunteer in all aspects of Three Square's operation, from packing food the "BackPack for Kids" Program to sorting food in the warehouse.
Perhaps our newest and most exciting community-building collaboration is taking place between UNLV, Three Square, the Lincy Institute and the Brookings Institution. Three Square's Southern Nevada Hunger Symposium looked at how hunger impacts children and education, senior citizens, healthcare, and homelessness. This newest partnership will have all of us working together to research and recommend actionable outcomes for improving access to food for children, seniors and families who struggle with hunger.
And UNLV is not alone in supporting Three Square's efforts. Other NSHE partners include the College of Southern Nevada, which is conducting a food drive this fall, and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's efforts in the creation of a new community garden.
With Thanksgiving only three days away, I will be focusing on the many blessings in my life over the past year. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your good fortune and how we can make Nevada a better place to live. As the mission of Three Square reminds us, "When we work together, we don't just serve food. We serve hope."
Working together, we can strengthen our community and start building a new Nevada.