It doesn’t take an army to feed one, just ask Avery Konda, Program Assistant at the Centre for Changemaking & Social Innovation, Georgian College. A recent graduate of the Environmental Technology Advanced Diploma Program, as a student Avery noticed that not all his fellow education seekers had stomachs that were being filled as often as their minds were. Food insecurity is what is known as a wicked problem, a problem with many independent factors making them seem impossible to solve. At Georgian College’s Barrie campus Avery noticed that despite students having access to the on-site Food Locker Program, run by the Georgian College Students’ Association (GCSA), there was a lack of fresh food choices. According to recent studies, Canadian post-secondary students reported that nearly half had forgone healthy foods due to both a lack of availability and affordability (J.Lornic, 2016)
As a changemaker, Avery knew he could do something to find a fresh food solution. Through an entrepreneurial co-op (eCo-O), he founded Growing Georgian, an on-campus garden program that provides students with sustainable and nutritious food alternatives while promoting conscious consumption, ethical growing practices and the resurgence of a local food economy. In recognition of his efforts, he was awarded the college’s prestigious “Co-op of the Year Award” (2017).
I sat down to have a conversation about growing changemaking at Georgian College with Avery Konda:
What is something that you strongly believe in?
I am a big believer in making changes for the betterment of society. One of the ways I do this is by running a podcast called The Social Impactors, we’ve highlighted people making positive changes in the world, people working with the Center for Changemaking & Social Innovation in its pursuit to create a region of changemakers and a tech company where they gather civic engagement data which helps the community to become a better place.
How did you come up with the idea of Growing Georgian?
I was looking at the problem of food insecurity on campus and how we could help students with this growing challenge of finding choices and came up with the idea of Growing Georgian. It was an initiative to bring on-campus nutritious food for students. By doing this, we provided a free substitute for students who would usually go to the Georgian College Student Association’s (GCSA) Food Locker and end up with non-perishable canned food, high in sodium. I did this in order to help with the larger problem of students not getting the right nutrition; which leads to other issues like students being tired and not able to concentrate on their studies, resulting in poor grades. This wasn’t something a quick meal of instant noodles could fix!
In Canada, a country of abundance it didn’t make sense for students to go hungry. Having nutritious food could make or break it for someone, I don’t like to think that drastically, but it could have a drastic effect on a student’s life.
How was Entrepreneurship Co-op experience (eCo-Op)?
I loved it as it was a unique experience and I learned a lot more than I would have if I went through a traditional co-op. Going through this co-op gave me a lot of useful experiences in the areas of business, technology and entrepreneurship. It not only broadened my horizons but also tailored my skills helping me in the tech company I work for.
What are some skills that you learned from your eCo-op?
It makes you more well-rounded, so when you’re in the workforce after school you can contribute to an organization in more than one way. In an organization, often you have to play more than one role and it becomes almost critical to be resourceful. This being an entrepreneurial program, self-driven, it helped in making you much more desirable to prospective employers.
Do you see yourself as a changemaker?
I do see myself as a Changemaker! I appreciate that changemaking is defined as making a positive change in the world, that everyone is a changemaker. An eCo-op was beneficial as it helped bring my changemaker character traits out and also makes you reflect on the whole process. For people who don’t see themselves as a changemaker the reflection process helps them in establishing it and for people who already identify as one are benefited through strengthening their belief.
What would be your advice for other Changemakers?
Changing the world is a complex process because of the various demographics involved but at the same time, it’s achievable as long as you are consistent with your actions and goals. Creating a specific plan and then being true to it definitely helps in achieving your goals. It may take more time than anticipated but eventually, you would achieve your goal and have a compounding effect on other’s life. You might open new opportunities for someone leading to the creation of new sectors. If you want to change the world being consistent with your actions and goals is essential. Realizing that you are doing an incredible thing makes it difficult, but at the same time, it is one of the most rewarding things.
Written by Indresh Singh, Co-op student, Centre for Changemaking & Social Innovation
I am a second year (Business administration) student at Georgian College. I grew up in (Chandigarh, North of India). My favourite part of living in Canada so far has been the people who are really supportive and inclusive.
Lorinc, J. (2019, February 04). Four in ten university students lack food security as education costs skyrocket. Retrieved from https://www.macleans.ca/education/four-in-ten-university-students-lack-food-security-as-education-costs-skyrocket/