Abroad – Students and faculty from Tech’s School of Agriculture pose with Phil Stewart (left) and Jane Flanagan (right) of the Scottish nonprofit Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service.

Trip made as part of a food insecurity course

Dumfries, Scotland/Putnam County – Students and faculty from Tennessee Tech University’s School of Agriculture recently spent a week abroad performing research and volunteer activities in Dumfries, Scotland.

A cohort of 11 Tech students and two faculty members made the trip as part of a food insecurity course. The group spent seven days working and learning alongside organizations that combat food insecurity in the United Kingdom. 

The group also spent time restoring an outdoor space for students, cooking and serving meals and hearing from underserved populations in the region.

“Our trip to Scotland was an excellent experience and I truly witnessed each of my students’ gifts and talents as we served those in need in the Dumfries and Galloway region,” said Dennis Duncan, professor of agriculture at Tech, who also organized and led the trip. 

A focal point of the trip was the Summerhill Community Centre, a nonprofit organization in Dumfries that operates a food pantry and provides events and programming to improve quality of life for vulnerable populations in the region. There, Tech students spent a full day preparing and serving a classic Tennessee meal of chicken and dumplings to roughly 40 community members.

Tech students and faculty also visited St. Andrew’s Primary School, a public school in the East Mainland of Orkney, where the group spent another full day transforming the school’s overgrown woodland area into a fully functioning outdoor classroom complete with two treehouses, tables and stools. Tech students then spent the evening helping teachers develop a plan for how to use their new outdoor space. 

Aside from their volunteer work, Tech’s group spent time with Jane Flanagan of the Scottish nonprofit Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service. The organization provides free, confidential assistance to the public, including housing referrals, employment assistance, immigration support and other services. 

“The trip to Scotland really opened my eyes up to the world and the different ways that other people live their lives,” said Tech agriculture education student Briona Agee. “It taught me so many things about volunteering, being humble and getting to know people on a personal level.”

Throughout their volunteer work, Tech students gathered data to inform their efforts in helping food-insecure populations in the Cookeville region. 

“While there are differences between the unique needs of those we met in Scotland and our food-insecure neighbors in the Upper Cumberland, the need to solve for these societal challenges and engage with compassion and respect is universal,” added Duncan. “This trip has given our students and us as faculty, much to reflect on as we finish out the semester in this course.”

Learn more about Tech’s School of Agriculture at https://www.tntech.edu/cahe/ag/

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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