WFU Master of Arts in Management students’ Hunger Project benefits Forsyth Backpacks Program

Wake Forest University graduate business students are playing their own version of “The Hunger Games.”

School of Business Master of Arts in Management students are participating in The Hunger Project, which will benefit hundreds of Forsyth County children over the holidays.

The Forsyth Backpack Program was selected by the 138 students in the Action Learning Project course as its MA Class of 2014 Community Service Project, according to Michelle Horton, director of Experiential Learning and Leadership Development for the School of Business. The students decided to focus on food insecurity/hunger because Winston-Salem ranks among one of the nation’s hungriest cities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The Hunger Project’s goal was to expose students to design thinking tools and techniques to assist them in developing creative and innovative solutions around the issue of hunger in Forsyth County,” she explained. “They decided to raise awareness, funds and food for the students in the Forsyth Backpack Program as their community service initiative.  The goal is to feed as many kids in the program as possible over the upcoming Christmas Break, which is a huge gap for the students in terms of food access.”

At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4,  representatives from Second Harvest Food Bank, Samaritan Industries, Ernst and Young, R.J. Reynolds, Forysth County Schools and Campus Kitchens will judge the business graduate students’ final four presentations as part of The Hunger Project.

The student group presentations, which will be held in Farrell Hall’s Broyhill Auditorium, are open to the public.

Following the presentations, the MA students will present a donation to the nonprofit Forsyth Backpack Program, which was founded by WFU Law Professor Barbara Lentz with the help of the law school’s Community Law and Business Clinic, directed by Professor Steve Virgil. The program is an umbrella nonprofit that raises funds and awareness to better serve hungry children in Forsyth County.

Thanks to this cross-disciplinary collaboration between WFU’s School of Business and School of Law, an estimated 1,500 public elementary school students in Forsyth County won’t go hungry on the weekends or over the upcoming holiday break, according to Lentz.

“Forsyth Backpack serves as an umbrella organization or direct partner to the 25 backpack programs in Forsyth County providing supplemental food to kids identified by their teachers and school nurses as showing signs of hunger,” she explained. “Some children who receive free breakfast and lunch at school do not have a regular source of food on weekends or holidays.”

Twenty-eight teams made up of graduate business students gave presentations as part of The Hunger Project and raised money over the past six weeks for the Forsyth Backpack Program. The teams were narrowed to the final four presentations set for Wednesday.

Horton added that The Hunger Project was also used as an opportunity to expose them to servant leadership and put pro humanitate into action.

“I appreciate all of the new insights that the Action Learning Project course has taught me,” said John Faber (MA ’14). “The things that I have learned in ALP are probably some of the most valuable lessons that I have learned.”

Professor Virgil’s Community Law and Business Clinic that helped incorporate the Forsyth Backpack Program provides law and graduate business students with an opportunity to develop skills needed to practice in the increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment they will encounter as professionals. The clinic has assisted clients with hundreds of legal matters since opening in 2009, including those related to small businesses and start-ups, non-profits, art and intellectual property and consumer transactions.

Matt Gass (JD ‘13) says the Community Law and Business Clinic gives students the unique opportunity to gain practical experience by pairing them with local businesses.

“I was fortunate to have Forsyth Backpack as a client,” he explained. “The organization not only looks to advance an admirable cause, but it does so in an efficient and organized manner –essential attributes to having a successful non-profit organization.  This is a testament to the leadership of the organization.  Professor Lentz, along with the organization’s other leadership, have Forsyth Backpack doing great things for the community and the sky is the limit for this organization.”

Lentz added that she valued Gass’s insight, initiative and candor and found his work to be of exceptional quality. “Forsyth Backpack would not exist today as a 501c(3) non-profit without Matt Gass and Professor Virgil’s clinic,” she said.

Among the guest judges on Wednesday will be:

  • Nikki McCormick, Director of Agency Relations, Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Sonjia Kurosky, Executive Director, Samaritan Ministries
  • Shelley Sizemore, Assistant Director of Campus Life, WFU
  • Karl Yena, Retired RJR Executive / Philanthropic Consultant
  • David Corrado, Senior Manager, Ernst & Young, LLC
  • Lauren Richards, Director, Child Nutrition, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools

For more information, contact Horton at  or Lentz at