Service-minded student honored as College’s Outstanding Senior

Kiri Michell with her awardDuring her time studying in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Kiri Michell has worked hard to help fellow students battling food insecurity. Her never-ending passion and drive to improve lives led her to start an exceptionally successful food program while excelling both inside and outside the classroom.

Michell majored in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics and nutrition management and a minor in gerontology, and she has already begun her master’s degree in the department. For her dedication to public service and academics, Michell was awarded the College of Health and Human Sciences Outstanding Senior Award for 2018-19. Michell is also the College’s student speaker at the Spring 2019 commencement ceremony on May 17.

The FREEdge

Michell first began her food insecurity outreach program in her sophomore year at CSU in answer to the rising food insecurity across many U.S. universities. Her interest in food insecurity started with a desire to use her knowledge to solve the unmet needs of her peers and friends who she saw battling food insecurity. During Michell’s first winter break of college, she volunteered at the Larimer County Food Bank and learned that 1 in 10 CSU students were food insecure.

Eager to help, Michell researched CSU’s existing efforts to address the issue and learned that they either targeted specific populations or had reached capacity. In order to develop a program that addressed the needs of the entire study body, she studied successful intervention models implemented by others.

Kiri Michell harvests produce from the Tower Garden, an aeroponic garden unit.

To gain institutional support for this effort, Michell applied for and was awarded a Puksta Scholarship, which supports students who show an exceptional commitment to improving their communities. After her early ideas met with some obstacles, Michell proposed the FREEdge program.

FREEdge is a combination of the words “free” and “fridge.” FREEdges have been increasing in use around the world, and store food in a secure location that provides individuals with food at no cost and on a first come first serve basis. Michell installed CSU’s first FREEdge at Aggie Village, an on-campus apartment complex with more than 900 residents.

“Kiri was more prepared than any student I had ever seen to step directly into action. When barriers emerged one after another, she didn’t give up. She dug deeper, asked questions and explored every corner of campus for a foothold,” said Katharine Wormus Hiltbrand, senior coordinator for Community for Excellence Scholars Programs.

As part of the ongoing program, Michell runs the Tower Garden, which is an aeroponic growing system, and education for students on how to cook healthy meals. The program has now expanded to the Residence Halls, and generated more than 900 lbs. of food since it began.

Home away from home

“Growing up in Fort Collins, CSU has always been my home away from home,” said Michell. Her interest in food science began before she arrived on CSU’s campus. A varsity athlete on Fort Collins High School’s cross-country and track teams, Michell wanted to improve her times and began to research food’s role in athletic performance. Once she started exploring the wide range of opportunities she could pursue within the nutrition field, Michell became immersed in nutrition, food science, and leadership opportunities.

Michell is an active member of the Food and Human Nutrition Club, represented the Department of Human Nutrition on the Dean’s Leadership Council, and serves as a board member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. She began working with Sarah Johnson in the Functional Foods and Human Health Research Laboratory in January 2016 and continues her work there while earning her master’s degree.

“Kiri is an outstanding student and a natural leader, and without a doubt will make substantial contributions in her educational programs, community work, and career,” said Johnson.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.