Auburn Speaks
Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Student Profile: Devin Yeomans

Written by Karen Hunley

Making a difference in her community

People going hungry is often not something you expect or worry about in your own community – in your schools, churches, or just a few houses down. Food seems to be everywhere, so how could it be that your neighbors go to bed hungry?

In reality, hunger is not an issue in only poverty-stricken, third-world countries. There are people deprived of wholesome food throughout the U.S. as well, and that’s something Auburn University senior Devin Yeomans tuned into after she transferred to Auburn in 2011. She took a Hunger Studies Introduction class taught by professor Kate Thornton her first semester, and it “completely changed her life,” Yeomans said.

Thornton’s class led Yeomans, a nutrition and dietetics major, to declare a hunger studies minor and earn an honorable mention for The President Jefferson Clinton Hunger Leadership Award in 2013. The prestigious award was created to honor President Clinton for his commitment to eradicating hunger and other humanitarian causes.

“The Hunger Studies class was not only eye-opening because it introduced me to these issues, but because it required a service learning project,” said Yeomans, who worked at the Community Market food pantry on Opelika Road to complete her 20 hours of community service. “There, I was able to see first hand what we were learning in class. It really brought everything home, and I realized I wanted to see what I could do about hunger,” she continued.

She became particularly concerned about local hunger, or “food insecurity,” relating to inadequate amounts of healthy foods and, instead, too much highly processed, sugar-laden foods.

“Hunger here looks a lot different than hunger in poor, developing countries,” Yeomans said. “In the United States, hunger is somewhat hidden and looks more like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.”

Devin Yeomans

Yeomans and other members of the Committee of 19 volunteered with the Wesley foundation to bag 42,000 pounds of sweet potatoes that were gleaned from a farm and sent to the Food Bank of East Alabama to be distributed to its member agencies.

Her work at the Community Market, a program of the East Alabama Food Bank, and the passion for hunger awareness that developed as a result no doubt helped Yeomans meet the criteria for the Clinton Hunger Leadership Award. The criteria is “demonstrated leadership in the fight against hunger and a commitment to a life of service in the areas of hunger and poverty reduction.”

The lengthy application process required Yeomans to develop a three-minute video about her vision for a world without hunger, and after she was chosen as one of five finaliists, Yeomans had to write three essays on her personal thoughts on various aspects of hunger awareness and relief.

Yeomans described putting together the application materials as an incredible experience in itself, helping her “begin a journey of introspection” and more clearly understand her own goals for addressing hunger. She worked with Paul Harris, a professor in the Honors College at Auburn, and received much support during the application process from Thornton and Harriet Giles of the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University.

“I’m passionate about raising awareness in particular because I believe that if you know about the issues, you can do something about it,” Yeomans said.

She also wanted to take advantage of being situated in a culturally diverse atmosphere such as the Auburn University, where having students from a variety of backgrounds and department majors allows them to tackle hunger in different ways.

“It’s really important for students, as they are figuring out what they care about, to realize they can do something,” she added.

In addition to volunteering at the Community Market, as an undergraduate Yeomans was also involved with the Committee of 19 and co-founded the Why Care? Campaign, a student-led hunger awareness campaign for World Food Day.

After earning her undergraduate degree in spring 2013, Devin began the Rural Sociology master’s program at Auburn. She is planning to pursue a career focused specifically on addressing food insecurity.

“I feel like the Rural Sociology program will help me develop the skills to really understand the factors that affect local food insecurity and the role that our food system plays in that,” Yeomans said. “I also believe that it will help me further shape my future goals and see where and how I can make the most difference.”

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