Junior Alyssa Neill sees great value in knowing where food comes from and how it grows. She’s put her own knowledge to work co-founding the student group Slow Food URI, launching a local food market, building a vegetable garden on campus, and representing the University at food forums near and far. And her work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In spring 2013, she was one of only 61 college juniors nationwide to be named a Truman Scholar and was awarded a $30,000 grant for graduate study. After a rigorous 15-part application, sample policy statement, formal nomination from URI and interview with a panel of public servants, she said “it was an amazing surprise,” when URI President David Dooley and a dozen of her professors showed up to one of her classes with a bouquet of flowers to announce her selection.
The prestigious Truman Scholars program is geared to students who want to be agents of change. When Alyssa started Slow Food URI as a freshman, she wanted to encourage the consumption of healthy food grown in a clean environment, where farm animals are raised in humane conditions and farmers are compensated fairly for their products. The group built small gardens at the Oliver Watson House, hosted regular local food markets on the quadrangle, and even helped slaughter turkeys at Thanksgiving.
“I want people to value wholesome foods, to understand that the food they eat affects their health and the environment,” said Alyssa, a member of the URI President’s Council for Sustainability. “But people aren’t going to value wholesome foods until they experience them; then they will want and desire them. I want to be an advocate, especially for lower income people who don’t have access to wholesome food.”
URI is the only public university in the Northeast to be named a Truman Scholarship Honor Institution for its active encouragement of students to pursue careers in public service.
Alyssa Neill profile on URI Office of Sustainability webpage