Ava McCall 2020

Ava L. McCall

Ed. Notes- A trfecta is a well known word to gamblers as a bet in which the person betting forecasts the first three finishers in a race in the correct order. In the world of KIDS a trifecta is the work of Board member Ava McCall. Ava is one of those rare individuals who walk the talk. As you will read, Ava was department head at The University of Wisconsin-Oshksh, Professor teaching graduate students about hunger & poverty, volunteer at local food pantry and inspiration to all. Also, a personal friend of Jane and me and always includes us on her trips to New York City.


MEET Ava L. McCall


Let's start with where you are from and your background

Food was an important part of my life since birth. I grew up on a family farm in southern Indiana. My father was proud to be a small, family farmer who grew food for the country. My mother, however, was an important provider of food for our family. Each year she had a huge garden with a variety of vegetables which we ate fresh from the garden in the summer or ate canned or frozen the remainder of the year. My grandmother raised chickens, which gave us eggs and chicken to eat. My father also had a few dairy cows who provided milk, and a few beef cattle who gave us beef to eat. My mother baked breads, cakes, pies, and cookies for the family to enjoy. Even though my parents did not generate a high income, we were never hungry and relished the delicious foods my mother prepared.

What interested you in hunger and education?

My parents emphasized education as my four sisters and I grew up. They believed the key to a better life was a good education and encouraged us to do well in school and attend college. Three of their daughters became teachers, including me. I became interested in the issue of poverty early in my college years through reading the book The Other America by Michael Harrington. Reading that text and discussing it in my sociology class was a transformative experience. I knew I wanted to do something to alleviate poverty. I dedicated a number of my 13 years as an elementary teacher in South Bend, Indiana teaching children who came from low-income backgrounds. I wanted to help my students learn as much as possible and know I cared about them.

After completing a Ph.D. in curriculum and women’s studies at Indiana University, I also spent many of my 28 years as a college professor teaching preservice teachers about the issue of poverty, primarily at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. I encouraged them to include the issue of poverty and hunger in their own classrooms when they began their teaching careers. During that time, I collected a number of excellent resources to help teach about the issue of poverty and hunger, including the Finding Solutions to Hunger: Kids Can Make a Difference hunger curriculum produced by the Kids Can Make a Difference organization. After teaching about the issue of poverty and hunger, I usually invited the director of the largest food pantry in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to speak to the class about how the food pantry helps address the problem of hunger in the local community. My students frequently chose to either volunteer at the pantry or donate food or money to the pantry. Volunteering was especially a very enlightening experience.

I became a board member of the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry upon my retirement from teaching at the university to continue my commitment to address the issue of poverty. Although I realize the pantry does not solve the root causes of poverty, I am pleased that the pantry treats people with dignity who struggle to provide basic necessities for their families. The pantry provides nutritious food for community members who are not always able to purchase the food they and their families need.

I also volunteer in a fourth-grade classroom at a local elementary school with a significant low-income population of students to help teach Wisconsin history and United States history. My goal is to provide additional resources to the classroom and attention and assistance to students who need it.

What issues do you work on and why?

I continue to focus on the issue of poverty and hunger through serving as a board member of the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry. Food is a basic need of all people, and their quality of life is negatively affected if they are unable to eat nutritious food. Children cannot grow and learn without nutritious food. The best teaching in the world is ineffective if children are too hungry to learn. This realization is the motivation behind my service to the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry as well as my volunteering in an elementary classroom. I am especially pleased that the pantry provides food to schools with students who need it, including the elementary school where I volunteer. Each week, the pantry delivers tote bins of food to 15 schools and fresh fruit to 17 schools within the local school district. This food does not solve the problem of hunger for all children and families in the community, but hopefully, it allows more children to focus on learning.

What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

The major challenge for the pantry staff and board is to raise enough money each year to keep the pantry operating. The majority of our funding comes from foundations, businesses, and local organizations, but we also count on individual donors. In addition, we try to raise the community’s awareness of the pantry’s resources and mission, the number of people and households who use the pantry each year, and our school pantry program. During the past year and a half, we have hosted a number of VIP tours of the pantry for various groups in the community. Our belief is that if groups knew about the pantry’s mission and work and the need for the pantry in the community, more people would support the pantry through volunteering or donating food or money. We have had several successful VIP tours resulting in greater support for the pantry, but also struggle to get people to the pantry to learn more about its mission and work in the community. The reality is that many people today are already so busy with work and family lives that they seldom have time to learn about the need to provide support to community members who do not always have access to healthy food.

What drives you?

A thesis of Michael Harrington’s book The Other America was that poverty was often hidden, and citizens did not think it was a problem in our country. He wanted readers to know that poverty existed and hoped his book would inspire them to do something about it. His book, along with other experiences in schools and in teaching, motivated me to address poverty however I can, wherever I am. Although I am not dealing with some of the root causes of poverty, such as creating jobs which pay a living wage or raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I am dedicated to addressing the issue of poverty in my local community.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers? What do you think your legacy should be?

I hope that my life’s work as a teacher, board member, and volunteer illustrates my commitment to make the world better, even in small ways. I believe that my teaching has led to learning among students and that I have helped provide basic necessities to some of my neighbors within my community. Please consider reaching out to help members of your own community, especially those who may not be able to meet their basic needs.

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About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

Finding Solutions to Poverty & Inequality Alliance:

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