Freshman Elizabeth Stoltz spent the last two years of her high school career planning fundraisers to send food to malnourished children in Ethiopia. Now in college, Stoltz wants to expand Food for Thought, a non-profit organization she started in high school.
Food for Thought plans and participates in 5-km walks to raise money for a therapeutic food called Plumpy’nut. The peanut butter-based food comes in a small silver foil packet and contains extra calories, vitamins, minerals and protein. Money raised goes to the Plumpy’nut manufacturer, who then sends it to villages in Ethiopia. To date, Stoltz’s organization has raised $15,000 for its cause.
“If the kids eat two packets a day for two to three weeks they can be brought back from severe malnutrition,” Stoltz said. “It’s cheap and doesn’t go bad for two years so it’s really the perfect solution.”
Stoltz was inspired to start the organization and began thinking of ways that she could help out the children in Africa even though she could not go there herself.
Stoltz established the organization by setting up a board of directors including herself, her father and four friends from York Catholic High School.
Now at the college, Stoltz is in the process of filling out chapter forms and talking to interested students. She wants to hold a “globally concerned student” workshop, where students can discuss issues in developing countries and brainstorm about courses of progressive action.
“I’m looking for any students who are passionate about it and want to get involved,” she said. “I have been shocked by the insight that the high school students had to offer on these global problems and how passionate they really got about talking about them.”
Katie Seufert, adviser for the Food For Thought chapter at York Suburban High School in York, Pa., said she appreciated the organization’s commitment to ending poverty and increasing education in developing countries.
“It is so global in perspective, allowing its members to reach out to both local and distant communities, touching the lives of next door neighbors and neighbors across the world,” Seufert said.
Marie Wilson, media director for the high school chapter of Food For Thought said she was impressed with Stoltz’s work ethic during the organization process.
“I’ve never seen her give up once,” she said. “She does so much and honestly I don’t know how she does it. She’s extremely patient and is very good at dealing with situations and keeping cool.”
Though Stoltz has been focusing on settling into college life, she got advice from Park scholar director Matt Fee about bringing the group to campus.
Stoltz said she is looking forward to working with other outreach groups on campus such as Students Taking Action Now: Darfur.
“There are a lot of different activist groups on campus that are really concerned with international issues, so it would be important to work together with them in the future once the Food for Thought chapter has been started,” Stoltz said.
This summer, Stoltz worked with church members to teach Ethiopian children about personal hygiene and other aspects of life that many people take for granted.
“What really struck me is that it was just amazing for the first time to hold their hands and share a cup of coffee with them every night,” Stoltz said. “They are really strong people — the happiest, most joyful people I have ever been with in my entire life.”
Stoltz has also been working with other students on creating a new social justice and human rights minor in the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies.
“Food for Thought has done a lot in shaping my career goals and I really want to work in non profit and humanitarian relief, so if we get this program in place at Ithaca hopefully some other kids would be interested as well,” she said.
Stoltz said the main goal of the organization is to expand the mission to more high schools and colleges and to let students know that they can do something about global issues.
“Our biggest things [are] empowering kids to realize that they can not only read about these problems but they can also take action and do something about them,” she said. “A little bit goes a long way and it’s really about serving something larger than yourself.”