NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A new partnership between Stephen F. Austin State University's Lumberjack Express mobile food lab and Jo's Diner at the Helping Other People Eat Food Pantry will give students in SFA's hospitality administration and food, nutrition and dietetics programs more opportunities to prepare for their future careers and serve the community. It also will add kitchen space and manpower to HOPE Food Pantry to help serve more Jo's Diner guests.
Jo's Diner, a kitchen of HOPE established in honor of the late Martha "Jo" Price, opened July 31. As many as 50 guests, on a first-come basis, are served a free, nutritious lunch by kitchen volunteers on Wednesdays.
The diner is partially funded by a grant from the Moody Foundation and by generous donations from the community. It has limited resources and heavily relies on volunteers and community partners, according to Dr. Sharon Ninness, project director and grant writer for Jo's Diner and a volunteer for HOPE Food Pantry.
"Bringing Lumberjack Express to Jo's Diner extends those resources by allowing volunteers to use the mobile kitchen, as well as providing the community served a unique dining experience," Ninness said.
Though students from the hospitality administration and food, nutrition and dietetics programs have been regularly volunteering at Jo's Diner since September, the Lumberjack Express and Jo's Diner partnership officially kicked off the day before Thanksgiving.
The kickoff included volunteers from the SFA men's basketball team, who served Jo's Diner guests less than 24 hours after beating then No. 1 Duke University in overtime.
Faculty volunteers included Dr. Donna Fickes, clinical instructor of hospitality administration; Jill Pruett, adjunct instructor of food, nutrition and dietetics; Wilma Cordova, professor of social work, who was named the 2019 Social Worker of the Year by the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers; Kyle Keller, men's basketball coach; and Dr. Mark Guidry, associate provost for Academic Affairs, who helped prepare the Cajun Thanksgiving feast for Jo's Diner guests.
The partnership will continue in the spring semester with SFA students preparing and serving 50 meals to members of the Nacogdoches community at Jo's Diner on the first, second and fourth Wednesdays of the month beginning Jan. 22. The Lumberjack Express mobile food lab will travel to Jo's Diner only on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
"This partnership provides students with a venue to apply the skills they have learned while fulfilling the mission of the James I. Perkins College of Education," Fickes said. "By developing a commitment to service that enriches the community, these students will become competent, successful, caring and enthusiastic professionals dedicated to responsible service, leadership, social justice and continued professional and intellectual development in an interconnected global society."
Though the partnership is initially focusing on students from the hospitality administration and food, nutrition and dietetics programs in the School of Human Sciences, Fickes said all SFA students, faculty and staff are welcome to join the partnership.
"They can join it individually or by department," Fickes said. "It would be great to get our administrators, regents and other SFA community members out on a regular basis to interact with our students and our community."
To learn how to join the partnership, email firstname.lastname@example.org.