Paper Type

Master's Thesis


Brooks College of Health

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition & Dietetics

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Nutrition & Dietetics

First Advisor

Dr. Jen Ross

Second Advisor

Dr. Lauri Wright

Third Advisor

Dr. Zhiping Yu


INTRODUCTION: Food insecurity is a problem in the subpopulation of older adults and the elderly. The following study aimed to explore the perceptions and motives such as career benefits, impacts experienced through volunteering, skills in dietetics, comfort level with seniors, social responsibility, peer modeling, and empathy of student volunteers participating in a food recovery-meal delivery program known as Meals on Wings (MOW) on a college campus in the Southeast.

METHODOLOGY: The study was conducted during July 2021. Semi-structured interviews were administered over the video conference program Zoom to 10 (n=10) student volunteers who volunteered with MOW for at least one semester. Once saturation was reached, answers and self-reflections of volunteers were analyzed following the thematic analysis qualitative study design. RESULTS: Four major themes were revealed: 1) realization of food insecurity, 2) importance of group work, 3) skills relating to future dietetic practice, and 4) interaction/connection with older clients. Volunteers of MOW realized profound impacts regarding helping the needs of seniors and self-growth in future career settings. Feelings and actions including empathy, self-gratification, social responsibility, and peer modeling were recognized.

CONCLUSIONS: Altruistic and career-building motivations for volunteering were realized from the results of this study. Finding out the reasons and perceptions for why students volunteer may help to acquire more students to join the world of volunteering, provide help to the community, and show that volunteering can be immersed as a part of the educational experience. The inclusion of a school-driven, food recovery-meal delivery program to help meet the needs of seniors may help to get more students to volunteer in the community.