Students Learn About Service Through Peanut Butter Production

November 16, 2009
SHSU Media Contacts: Julia May

SHSU students representing LULAC, the Political Science Junior Fellows, the Latter Day Saints Student Association, the American Democracy Project, and sociology classes produced 1,600 jars of peanut butter at the Latter Day Saints cannery in Houston for distribution to needy residents in Walker County.


In addition to the obvious objective of educating students, one of Sam Houston State University’s official goals is to “promote students’ intellectual, social, ethical, and leadership growth.”

Last week, the university facilitated that goal by providing an opportunity for representatives from several student groups to produce 3,000 lbs. of peanut butter for distribution to needy residents of Walker County.

“We want to build a better relationship between the university and the community,” said SHSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Payne. “It’s appropriate for our students to volunteer and serve the community where they are getting their education.”

Payne, who is a Mormon, learned that the Latter Day Saints peanut butter cannery in Houston was opening its facility to non-church groups for the benefit of the poor in their communities.

He presented the idea of a joint project engaging student volunteers in the production of the protein-based staple to the board of Huntsville’s Promise, of which he is also a member.

On Nov. 7, approximately 30 volunteers from several university groups including LULAC, the Political Science Junior Fellows, the American Democracy Project, the Latter Day Saints Student Association, and students taking sociology classes traveled to Houston with representatives from Huntsville’s Promise and worked in the cannery producing 1,600 jars of peanut butter.

After inspection by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the peanut butter was brought to Walker County and is in the process of being distributed to food banks in Riverside and New Waverly and various charitable organizations and agencies in Huntsville.

“The university purchased the peanuts. With students doing the production work, they were able to make peanut butter for less than $1 a jar,” Payne said, noting that the local market value is approximately $3 a jar.

Several students who participated in the project said they came away with not only a feeling of satisfaction that they were contributing to a worthwhile effort, but they had acquired an appreciation for things they often took for granted.

“I volunteered to go because I felt that this was definitely a good cause and a great activity to help the Huntsville community,” said Blake Roach, a junior political science major from Big Spring.

“It was also an educational experience for me because we just assume that food is going to be there for us; we never think about how it gets to the store shelves,” he said. “It made me appreciate the people who produce our food.”

Sociology major Jamie Phillips of Sealy said she was glad she had the opportunity to do something to help the Huntsville community, and she appreciated her education more after the experience.

“I have never done anything like this before, and it made me see how valuable a college education is,” she said.

Another student, criminal justice senior Juan Ramos of Houston, said he volunteered out of curiosity, but came away with a good feeling about service.

“I’ve never made peanut butter before, and I thought it would be interesting to see how it was produced,” he said. “After we were done, I had the personal satisfaction of knowing I had done something important to benefit people in need in Walker County.”

Payne said that a number of Sam Houston State University people also worked behind the scenes to make the project successful including Dorothy Roberson of the provost’s office, Lee Miller of the sociology department and the American Democracy Project, Vice President for Finance and Operations Dana Gibson, and Vice President for Student Services Frank Parker.

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