University Community

OHIO Zanesville student social work club hosts food drive

The Ohio University Zanesville Social Work Student Association is sponsoring a canned food drive to directly benefit the Life Well Shelter and Free Store, located at 857 Putnam Ave. in Zanesville. 

“We decided to do the canned food drive not only to provide food to the shelter, but also in hopes to give them food with different nutritional values than what they might usually have access to,” social work major Mackenzie Dodd said.

The canned food drive was developed by students in the social welfare course taught by Dr. Leah Vensil, associate professor of social work in the College of Health Sciences and Professions. Students in this course are engaged in service learning which includes hands-on service within the community. The Life Well Shelter and Free Store was chosen for this class because of the agency’s long history of serving the community and Pastor Joy Wigal’s willingness to partner.  

“There is a great need for social workers and case managers in the Putnam area and beyond,” Wigal said. “This is a great opportunity for the social work students to get involved and gain ‘boots on the ground’ experiences. The Life Well is an ongoing resource for residents of Putnam and throughout the community. Not only do people come to us for clothes and household items, they come to us regularly for food, as well.” 

Getting involved firsthand in this area of the community opens the discussion with students about how a person may come to experience food insecurity. This social welfare course examines the root causes of societal challenges, including lack of affordable housing, low wages, barriers that groups face, social service qualifications, life circumstances, and other barriers. Students identify inherent biases within society, bridge the gap, and learn to be an advocate for those they will serve in their future careers. 

Ohio University Zanesville’s social work program prepares students to tackle some very difficult challenges,”  Vensil said. “I have no doubt that our community is in good hands with these competent and passionate future social workers.” 

Donations can be life-changing for community members. According to Feeding America, as of 2020 approximately 12,000 Muskingum County residents suffered from food insecurity. The OHIO Zanesville students are working to help mitigate food insecurity for the people who utilize the Life Well services.  

“Food donations will be a huge help within our community,” Wigal said. “It has been a pleasure to work with the students. They have lots of energy and creativity.”

The deadline for the food drive has been extended to Nov. 30 . Donations can be dropped off in donation boxes throughout Elson Hall at Ohio University Zanesville.

Those interested in discovering more about the social work program or additional opportunities at Ohio University Zanesville, can connect with Vensil at

November 29, 2022
Staff reports