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Class of 2016: Zach Ewen helps those struggling to become food secure

December 8, 2016

Zach Ewen stands before Torgersen Bridge.

Zach Ewen stands before Torgersen Bridge.
Zach Ewen stands before Torgersen Bridge.

Zachariah Ewen has a motto:  "At the end of the day, people matter."

It's a phrase heard frequently from him, and one that drives his work.

Ewen, of Fincastle, Virginia, is a senior graduating in December. He's majoring in food science and technology with a business concentration and a minor in leadership and social change in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It is the combination of these interests and a drive to serve with intent that distinguishes Ewen.

One in seven Americans struggles with hunger, and Ewen has made it a personal mission to reduce that number by giving significant amounts of his time to work with groups that share this purpose.

Ewen has worked with the Campus Kitchen Virginia Tech, the Wesley Foundation's 209 Manna Ministries, Micah’s Backpack, and Feeding America. During his time at Virginia Tech, he has worked to raise awareness of food security issues and provide access to food resources to those in need.

He recognizes the significance of food on culture.

“People come together over food, and memories are made at meals,” he said. “When access to food is disrupted, not only does it impact an individual's physical well-being, it has significant impact on familial, personal, and cultural relationships.”

During an internship with Tyson Foods in Chicago, Ewen got a first-hand look at social responsibility from a business perspective.

“So often, students want to engage in service, but they are not truly aware of their exact purpose in serving,” said Katie Russo, who advised Ewen in his work as a resident advisor (RA). “Zach is quite the opposite. He approaches service with a specific goal in mind, and his work is constantly centered on providing food resources to those in need and advocating for community food programs. His academic major, volunteer time, summer internships, the programs and discussions he implements as an RA, even his homecoming court campaign, are all centered on one thing — serving others through food. Food security is a basic human right, and Zach is working to make it a reality for all people.”

A participant in several service-based learning trips, Ewen will join a group of 20 students, recent alumni, and Student Affairs staff for study-abroad trip to South Africa in January.

The trip will be a culturally immersive case study of South Africa, with a focus on how race and apartheid have shaped the culture of the region. Participants will learn about and reflect on its history and potential, including challenges associated with racial injustice, economic development, governance, and education.

It all goes back to his motto.

“People matter, but they might not feel as if they do" he said. "Help them see it. Show people they matter. Help increase their quality of life, whether it is in big or small ways. Everyone can do service every day of their lives, though they may not realize it.”

Ewen is the recipient of the John and Pat White scholarship in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and part of the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program, an academic success community founded upon the principles of self-efficacy, mentoring, and peer support. 

For his insight, positive attitude, and life's goal of serving others by providing basic access to quality food resources, Ewen was recently recognized with an Aspire! Award for embracing Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as a way of life.

Written by Sandy Broughton

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