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First Year Eats

In this I[X] Team Spotlight, take a look at the team behind the research. Dr. Sumana Datta will share why this project is important to the community and how her team of students will contribute to the project. Discover what compelled the students to select this particular Innovation[X] project to work on, and what valuable skill sets and unique perspectives they bring to the project.

two women preparing meals

Dr. Datta, as the project leader, tell us why this project is so important to the community?

“Before the pandemic, 25-50% of American college students worried about where or how they would be able to get their next meal. With the financial impact of the pandemic, that percentage is even higher.  Students worried about food or hungry because they are skimping on food or skipping meals outright due to lack of money, can’t study as well, and fall behind academically, putting their college education and investment at risk.  Freshmen from low-income households are particularly at risk, and we know their grades are lower than students from more financially secure families. First Year Eats is trying not just to help feed food-insecure freshmen, but to help them learn how to cook good-tasting nutritious food easily and cheaply in crockpots or microwaves that are allowed in dorm rooms.  Our first-year pilot was able to show that low-income freshmen in First Year Eats raised their grades to the same level as non-low-income freshmen!  They also loved being in First Year Eats–all of them said they would recommend it to their friends, and 60% wanted to stay involve their next year. Once the First Year Eats students move out to apartments either as students or upon graduation, we hope their new knowledge will help them feed themselves well and within their budgets for a lifetime.”


What do you think your team of students can bring to this project?

“Our students bring an enormous range of assets to First Year Eats:  besides the interest, curiosity, enthusiasm, and real dedication to serving their fellow Aggies in need, our students bring expertise and experiences that bring added depth and richness to our approaches and interpretations.  It’s been a long time since some of us were college freshmen and the world has changed.  Our student team members keep us current and informed in our strategies, help us question assumptions, and provide new ideas based on their perspectives. Their enthusiasm and excitement help us see our project and goals with fresh eyes.”

As students, what made you chose this particular Innovation[X] project?

“Food insecurity is a problem that riddles so many in this country. Knowing that many students are struggling with this and having it negatively affect their college experience and academic growth is something that compelled me to be involved with the First Year Eats Program. I hope that through this program and our research, we are able to combat food insecurity on college campuses by shedding a greater light on how universities can assist students, as well as providing a program like this at other universities. This purpose and mission was one that I could personally relate to because I am first-generation and low-income student myself, so knowing that I am playing a part to help other students with a similar background as mine is one way of giving back and building a better future.”

– Jasmine Tran, Statistics Major


“I chose to become part of the First Year Eats program as this organization truly sheds light to an issue that so many college students silently suffer from. According to Hunger on Campus,, “50 percent of community college students and 47 percent of four-year college students reported food insecurity.” Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. First Year Eats provides nutritious and delicious meals that are perfectly designed for college students to easily create a home cooked meal with minimal effort as we provide instructions, tools and ingredients. We also have recently added our Monday Meals which we distribute pre-cooked meals and FYEats Store item pick-ups which includes a variety of individually packed store items that are thoughtfully chosen for a student’s convenience.”

– Araceli Ortiz, Allied Health Major


“I chose to be a part of this project because I believed that this program would allow me to not only volunteer but help other college students receive free food in hopes of eliminating the hunger insecurity gap. As a college student it is sometimes difficult to financially support hunger needs. This project helps alleviate the stress of worrying where the next meal will be coming from.”

– Alexandra Gonzalez, Kinesiology Major


What part of the project will you be working on?

“This year, I am acting as the main student intern for the project and thus, I am responsible for gathering data and analyzing them whether this is from student demographics, GPA, or their responses to surveys we have gathered relating to their emotional well-being as well as inclusivity on-campus. In addition, I may give suggestions as to what other factors should be taken into concern in order to determine how much or what effects the program has on the participants. With enough statistical evidence of improvements of students participating in regards to both their academics and mental well-being, I hope to see the program continued and possibly even being implemented in other departments and campuses!”

– Michael Lee, Statistics Major


“I am a student researcher on the statistics team with FYE. My role is to familiarize myself with the entire project, including background literature and previous data sets and statistical analyses. In the beginning, I read literature on learning communities, food insecurities, and academic success in college students and now I focus on understanding the data sets and discussing possible analyses that need to be run.”

– Jasmine Tran, Statistics Major


“I am in charge of recipe development, which means that I am responsible for finding recipes for our Monday Meals and Crockpot Thursdays as well as finding out what foods will be provided at our “store”. I also create recipe cards that instruct the students how to prep their crockpot meals.”

– Hannah Juhas, Biomedical Sciences Major


“I am a Social Media team lead member. My responsibilities include creating and designing social media posts that promote our events, distribute the instructions for our Crockpot recipes, demonstrate how to make our delicious meals, reminders to pick up FYEats Store Items, Crockpot meals, and Monday Meals and many other exciting things! I also help distribute and prepare Monday Meals among other responsibilities.”

– Araceli Ortiz, Allied Health Major


“This year, I will be working on the social media portion of this project. This includes creating posts, live Instagram events, and encouraging individuals to partake on the various amount of events that we have.”

– Alexandra Gonzalez, Kinesiology Major


“I am responsible for Team Development, trying to boost, maintain, and keep the morale of team high; and be placed in a position where I can help the program in any way possible. So, if other positions need help, I can also help out and alleviate any extra stress. Ultimately, this position is about serving the team and the rest of community.”

– Sergio Belmontes, Geophysics Major

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