August 26, 2005
Dear Psi Chi Chapter President and Faculty Advisor,
As you may or may not be aware, Psi Chi established Chapter Food Drives as a Psi Chi National Service Project three years ago. As the originator of that service activity being recognized on the National level, I would like to expand our commitment to this type of activity by working to develop an organization-wide network of Psi Chi Chapters as a service-education initiative. This letter is being sent out to all Psi Chi Chapters in the hope that your students might want to be part of the effort: (a) to expand food drives as a Psi Chi Service-Education initiative, and (b) to work toward developing partnerships with outside organizations such that our potential help others can be more fully realized.
Most Americans think of food as though it is something readily available. Food seems to be something that most of us have "too much" of...and, thus, psychologists tend to focus on eating disorders mainly dealing with dysfunctional eating. It is less likely that psychologists or psychology majors focus on the subjects of semi-starvation and food insecurity. Yet, according to government statistics, over 10% of households in the United States experience "food insecurity." There are approximately 31 million Americans who are "uncertain of having or unable to acquire adequate food sufficient to meet basic needs." In addition, studies show that food insecurity can be related to developmental problems and to functional impairment.
A survey of different literature sources reveals these points about the United States:
- One in four people on soup kitchen lines is a child
- Lack of certain nutrients in a diet can contribute to developmental problems
- Psychology and culture play a large role in food distribution
- Hunger has been called an invisible tragedy...with elders now choosing between buying medication versus food (if not eating pet foods)
- Only one day (June 5) of the year is designated Hunger Awareness Day
- Malnutrition has been labeled a high-priority public health problem
- Food agencies around the U.S. note (notably America's Second Harvest) estimate that 35 million Americans run out of food daily
In 1997, Psi Chi President Karen Jackson spoke in Eye on Psi Chi about social responsibility and how making contributions to society in general should be part of the mission of Psi Chi. In 2000, Bennett Bertenthal (then assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences) stated in the APS Observer that it is no longer sufficient for us to just aspire to become proficient scientists "we must also work to become 'civic scientists' who share a responsibility to inform the public about our accomplishments." He also stressed that collaborative efforts should address pressing societal issues and he pinpointed hunger and poverty as one such area.
Think for a moment how Psi Chi currently has 1,024 chapters. As Thanksgiving approaches think about the possibility of each chapter collecting a mere 100 pounds of food for the needy. On a national basis that would add up to 10,400 pounds (over 50 tons) of food. This fall, the Dowling College Chapter of Psi Chi will aim to collect 2,000 pounds of food for those in need. They started out in 2001 collecting 425 pounds. Then in 2002, they collected 915 pounds. In 2003, the collection effort hit 1,690 pounds. And in 2004, the chapter collected nearly 1,800 pounds of food which went to needy individuals. Again, think about if every Psi Chi Chapter was to annually collect 1,000 pounds of food for needy individuals...one could envision over 1 million pounds (over 500 tons) of food as being a service-education goal for our organization.
This letter is not, however, an appeal for your chapter to collect food for the needy for this Thanksgiving. If you want to do it, then that would be great (and let me know about your efforts). This letter is intended to ask chapter presidents and faculty advisors to contact me if you would like to be part of a Psi Chi National Food Drive Network. I would like to coordinate an effort wherein Psi Chi Chapters will join together by 2006 to launch a national service-education initiative that could lead to creating major partnerships with other organizations (corporations, etc.). This initiative could lead to matching food contributions, money contributions concerning hunger-related student research projects, contributions for educational program development via local and national conference programs, and more. The initiative is just beginning. What is needed now are chapter commitments to the effort. If you are interested, please send me an email at email@example.com. Please title your email "Food Drives: Psi Chi Service-Education Initiative." Please also include in your email to me the names and email addresses of the contact persons who will become part of our network and also identify your chapter.
As of August 15, there were 29 chapters across the country that have joined the initiative and a pilot project will be attempted this fall. More information will be sent out in the coming weeks. This will be a great way to get members of your chapter to work together on a mission helping other people.
Please consider joining our effort.
I hope that you are enjoying your summer, and I realize that some of you might not read this message before your fall 2005 semester gets under way. Nonetheless, please consider being a part of the initiative that I have mentioned in this communication. I have just taken office as Psi Chi National President, and I am promoting our organization’s development of the Psi Chi National Food Drive Network. I hope your chapter will find the time and have the inclination to engage in this cooperative service-education activity.
Robert Youth, Ph.D.
Psi Chi National President
c/o Psychology Department
Dowling College FH 310
Oakdale, New York 11769-1999