Auburn College of Human Sciences Students fight food insecurity through Summer Sustenance Project

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

A single meal is something many people take for granted but for several families and children in the Auburn area, food insecurity is a very real problem. Human Development and Family Science students at Auburn University are stepping in to help through the Summer Sustenance Project that is gaining momentum with each passing month.

The project actually began last Thanksgiving when students in Dr. Caroline Payne-Purvis’ Human Development and Family Sciences class came up with an idea to try and help two families in need during the holiday.

Bailee Price, a senior in Biomedical Sciences who is also minoring in Human Development and Family Science, said what started as a small project to benefit a few families has now grown into something huge.

“It started as just a single box and now it’s crazy and I don’t even know how many boxes of food we have,” Price said. “We came up with the idea and Dr. Purvis helped get the word out. I honestly never really knew food was a problem growing up because I was never in that realm of things so it’s helped open my eyes that this is a real issue.”

Typically reserved for rehabilitation treatment and physical therapy, the floor of the BenchMark Physical Therapy location off East University Drive in Auburn turned into a makeshift food bank on May 23. Dozens of food donation boxes were carefully labeled and ready to be sent to families in need as part of the Summer Sustenance Project.

Purvis highlighted that roughly 448 students in grades K-5 within Auburn City Schools can qualify for food assistance and when her students began asking the Auburn community and other university students to help with food donations for the project, they came through in a big way.

“Almost all of the food was donated and the only thing we bought were the Chef Boyardee cases,” Purvis said. “The donations were from the dorms, HDFS classes collected them and then donations within the College of Human Sciences.”

The partnership between Auburn University Human Development and Family Science and Auburn City Schools is helping children get through the summer months where food insecurity can be heightened due to the summer break.

Emma Chumley, a sophomore in pre-nursing at Auburn University, also took Purvis’ class and said after helping students over Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break she asked if it could be done in the summer months as well.

“I approached Dr. Purvis and asked her if we could continue it into the summer and that’s when we kick started it,” Chumley said. “I’ve just enjoyed meeting the families and seeing how grateful they are because it really is making a difference. The kids are aware more than we think they are and they’re very appreciative. I’ve also loved seeing how much Auburn students have helped and I’ve enjoyed seeing them taking it on. Even something small, they went out of their way to donate and try to help the community.”

Purvis, along with Price and Chumley, want to encourage Auburn residents and students to continue to give food donations throughout the summer. Food drop off areas include Spidle Hall, Bridgeway Diagnostics off East Samford Ave., and BenchMark Physical Therapy. Qualified families can collect food donations through the Summer Sustenance Project June 27 and July 25 at the BenchMark Physical Therapy location off East University Drive in Auburn.

Purvis, who has been adamant about giving credit to her students for starting the project, said it’s rewarding to see students apply the concepts they learn outside the classroom.

“As an instructor I’m like ‘yes they finally listened to something I said’ but it’s them connecting the concepts that we’re teaching in child development,” Purvis said. “They’re asking how do I solve this problem? Not, oh this problem exists and that’s for someone else to solve. They actually want to help.”

For more information on the Summer Sustenance Project, visit