STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Hallie Nelson
BY CALEB HICKS, JUNIOR/AG COMMUNICATIONS
Hallie Nelson didn’t know she’d be fighting hunger issues once she got to college, but it’s something she does nearly every day.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, the 21-year-old junior is majoring in biosystems engineering with an ecological option and has minors in Spanish, sustainability studies and community and civic engagement.
She began her journey in the agriculture industry after she saw the difference she could make.
“I switched from majoring in math to biosystems my sophomore year because I felt like it addressed a lot of the concerns sustainability works with,” Hallie says. “It’s from an engineering perspective, which is something that I was looking into.”
But simply majoring in biosystems was not enough. She wanted to put the skills she was gaining to good use, so she became involved with the Campus Kitchens Project, a nationwide, on-campus initiative that assists food-deficit students and families in the community.
“I’m looking to going into working with the food system, and I’ve already kind of started doing that on Auburn’s campus, working with the Campus Kitchens project,” Hallie says. “We pick up leftover food from campus restaurants and distribute it to food-insecure individuals. I’ve realized that there are a lot of problems with the way we deal with our food after it’s grown and cooked, and I want to work with those issues on the community-based level.”
As past president of Auburn’s Campus Kitchen—just named Kitchen of the Year at the fourth annual Food Waste and Hunger Summit—Hallie knows the importance of having a wholesome meal. It is, after all, one of the reasons she is a finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, an award that allots $30,000 to undergraduate students who plan to attend graduate school and commit to a public service career.
“One of the things I focused on for my Truman policy proposal was increasing school gardens in urban and rural areas so we can get fresh produce into schools,” Hallie says. “It also teaches kids about agriculture literacy and enhances their math and science skills. They’re more likely to try different types of fruits and vegetables if they had a hand in creating them.”
Hallie also says the experience of working in the school gardens will stay with students into the future, inspiring them to create their own gardens at home.
Since becoming involved with Auburn’s Campus Kitchen, she has seen the organization’s work—hard work—come to fruition in more ways than one.
“Before I was started helping with the organization, I didn’t realize how much food is thrown away on a daily basis on campus,” Hallie says. “In 2016, we picked up over 14,000 pounds of food, and all of that would have, literally, been thrown in a dumpster.
“It’s really cool when you get to work a shift and bond with the people you’re giving food to who you would have never met otherwise. One of the most special things to me is the amount of love one meal can spread in a community. It makes you realize we’re more than just students, and we need to have that connection with the community.”