Empowering Education: How Alabama Students Bridged Academia with Real-World Challenges
Sarah Smith | Creative Director


In Alabama, where one in four children face hunger, the state ranks third-highest in the nation for food insecurity at a staggering 20.3%. To put it into perspective, the number of individuals living with food insecurity in Alabama could fill Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare stadiums twice. Yet, for just $4, a hungry child can be fed over the weekend. Amidst this issue, public relations students at The University of Alabama have taken action to make a lasting impact through the power of education to rewrite the narrative for food insecure children throughout Alabama.

Aimed at making a significant impact, students enrolled in the APR 419 course have partnered with Alabama Credit Union to help raise funds and awareness for its Secret Meals For Hungry Children program to demonstrate the power of education and the role students can play in addressing the concerns that exist within the Tuscaloosa community.

APR 419 is a concepting and implementation course introduced in 2011 that allows public relations students to execute fundraising efforts on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Secret Meals, founded in 2008, partners with local food banks to create nutritious food packs to combat childhood food insecurity. Every Friday, officials distribute food packs to students who show signs of being food insecure. Since 2011, 760 APR 419 students have raised $276,122.62, providing over 77,046 weekend food packs, benefitting 2218+ children each school year.

The collaboration between ACU and APR 419 serves as a dynamic bridge, allowing students to apply academic learning to real-world issues and showcases how students can be active contributors to their community by offering a transformative vision for the future. Each semester, these young leaders align their efforts with Secret Meal’s mission to end childhood food insecurity in Alabama, leaving a lasting impact. The partnership is not just academic exercises; it’s a commitment to making a tangible difference. Through hands-on initiatives, these students become catalysts of change by addressing societal challenges and leaving a lasting mark on their community.

This fall, APR 419 students successfully raised $2,500 at their fundraising event called “Boots and Bingo for Backpacks.” With the amount of money raised, over 17 children will have meals every weekend for an entire school year. The fundraiser was a bingo event where attendees were able to win special prizes provided by local Tuscaloosa sponsors. The event, held at Innisfree on Nov. 8, featured bingo and special prizes from local sponsors, emphasizing the community’s collective effort to address a critical issue.

Team leader Malia Elliott expressed the significance of the opportunity, stating, “the opportunity to receive college credit while making a difference in the Tuscaloosa community is so special to not only myself but the whole team.” We hope our event brings people in Tuscaloosa together while raising funds for Secret Meals.”

This collaboration emphasizes that education extends beyond the confines of the classroom, serving as a dynamic force for positive change. The partnership between UA students and the Tuscaloosa community demonstrates how knowledge and skills can be actively employed for the betterment of society, leaving a lasting impact on the lives of those affected by childhood food insecurity.

Sarah Smith serves as the Creative Director at Alice Magazine, overseeing both design and photography teams. Currently a senior majoring in Public Relations with a minor in General Business, she hopes to begin her career in either public relations or graphic design within the fashion industry in New York City post-graduation.