After a Childhood of Poverty, NWU Junior Now Channels Her Passion Into Food Drive

It’s not uncommon to see a few college students wrinkle their noses at cafeteria food.

But when Nebraska Wesleyan University junior Janna Driskel grabs a warm plate of spaghetti or a chicken tortilla from the dining hall, she’s grateful and mindful that not everyone is lucky enough to eat such a meal.

She knows.

As a young child growing up in Nashville, Tenn., Driskel clearly recalls days when her mom was forced to decide whether to spend her remaining $5 for the week on gas or groceries.

“It usually went to gas so she could go to work,” Driskel said. “Money was tight, food was scarce; there were many days when we only ate a free meal served at the day care or the employee cafeteria.”

She lived in apartments with crumbling walls and barely-functioning appliances. She had many overnighters with friends so that she had a warm, safe place to sleep.

Now in college, the political science major is channeling her passion into a possible career focused on poverty alleviation. She wants to someday write policy that will help release the grip of poverty on individuals and families.

For starters, she has single-handedly organized a week of campus activities that will recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. In addition to information booths, visual aids in the dining hall, and a campus service project, Driskel is aiming to collect 10,000 non-perishable food items that will be donated to the Food Bank of Lincoln — just in time for Thanksgiving.

“Through this particular service event, I will be able to expose others to the poverty and hunger affecting our own city — the same poverty and hunger that affected me as a child,” she said.

From Monday, November 18 through Friday, November 22, non-perishable food items will be collected in the Weary Center lobby, Old Main, and Great Hall of the Smith-Curtis Administration Building. Distribution sites will be set up during the men’s basketball game on Tuesday, November 19 and the women’s basketball game on Wednesday, November 20.

Driskel has also organized a campus-wide service project. On Wednesday, November 20, students, faculty and staff will join her in Prairie Wolf B to work on “New Life for Old Bags,” which turns plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless.

The following is a complete schedule of campus events that will recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Week:

Monday, Nov. 18: Local Hunger Awareness

  • 9:30 a.m. -1 p.m. — Smith-Curtis Administration Building, information booths: Matt Talbot, Food Net, Food Bank of Lincoln, Society of Saint Andrews, BackPack Program, Malone Community Center, Summer Food Program.

Tuesday, Nov. 19: National and Global Poverty Awareness

  • Noon — Callen Conference Center, poverty discussion by Community Action Program
  • 7 p.m. — Snyder Arena, food collection at men’s basketball game

Wednesday, Nov. 20: Local Poverty Awareness

  • 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Smith-Curtis Administration Building, information booths: People’s City Mission, Lutheran Family Services, Fresh Start Home, CenterPointe, Community Action Program, Catholic Social Services
  • 5-7 p.m. — Prairie Wolf B, campus service project: New Life for Old Bags
  • 7:30 p.m. — Snyder Arena, food collection at women’s basketball game

Thursday, Nov. 21: National and Global Poverty Awareness

  • 7 p.m. — Callen Conference Center, documentary screening: The Line

All week

  • Non-perishable food items collection: Weary Center lobby, Old Main, Great Hall

Giving to Others

We all count our blessings for what we have but don't think about what it would be like to live in poverty. It is wonderful that Janna has a purpose to serve others in need. Let it be a reminder to all of us to give to others less fortunate--not just around the holidays but all year!

The true purpose of higher education

Thanks, Janna, for using your education, your determination, and your focus to help improve the world for everyone in it.

Thank you, Janna

Janna certainly isn't the first NWU student to have grown up in poverty, but she has courage and passion to give voice to those how are living it now. Thank you, Janna, for being brave enough to raise your voice and take important action.

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Junior Janna Driskel is using her personal experience with poverty to educate others.