2022 Schwab Alumni Grant recipient improving nutrition in Micronesia

July 6, 2022 — To improve health and nutrition outcomes for students at Wone Elementary School and enhance the hygiene and sanitation of the school facilities, a 1992 Grinnell College graduate turned to a grant that honors her community-minded classmate.

Lisa Ranahan Andon ’92 is the 2022 recipient of the Lori Ann Schwab ’95 Alumni Grant.

Lisa Ranahan Andon '92
   Lisa Ranahan Andon ’92

Schwab was committed to making the world a better place by helping others. Her life was cut short by a sudden illness while she was studying in London in 1994.

The grant provides stipends to support specific community service projects that recipients are significantly involved with. It is open to alumni from the classes of 1992 through 1998, the years that overlapped with Schwab’s time at Grinnell.

Andon received a $2,000 grant toward the construction of an outdoor cafeteria for the Wone Elementary School in the Federated States of Micronesia. Located about 500 miles north of the equator and 3,100 miles east of Hawaii, Micronesia is made up of four island states. Pohnpei, one of those states, is where Andon arrived in 1992 as a Peace Corps volunteer directly after her graduation from Grinnell.

She was placed with a family in an extremely remote community. The family relied entirely on subsistence agriculture and fishing, supplemented periodically with the sale of pepper. 

“Some of my fondest memories of my time as a volunteer revolve around harvesting pepper and tending our gardens, as well as evenings spent cleaning our kerosene lamps in preparation for doing homework with the children and long conversations with my host father,” Andon says. 

Later on, Lisa married Pidel, a Pohnpei native. Many of Pidel’s family members rely on subsistence agriculture and fishing, as do many of the other families whose children attend Wone Elementary. While Lisa and Pidel’s children are now adults, most of their nieces and nephews and other extended families’ children are students at Wone. In all, Wone Elementary Schools teaches 194 students in one of the most remote areas of the state. 

“In Pohnpei, a decline in agricultural, livestock, and fisheries income have combined to drive more households below the national food poverty line,” Andon says. “Families are having to sacrifice other expenditures or resort to lower nutritional alternatives.”

Wone School Principal Charles Armstrong stands next to a school sign.
Wone School Principal Charles Armstrong stands next to a school sign.

In partial response to these issues, the Pohnpei government offers a subsidized school lunch program to the elementary schools around the island. Due to limited funding, however, the lunches are not always nutritionally sufficient, and the program does not fully cover the physical infrastructure required to deliver the services, Andon says. 

Therefore, Wone Principal Charles Armstrong and the school’s Parent Teacher Association stepped in to equip a kitchen at the school and establish a Public Works Committee, which planted a school garden. Volunteer parents who cook for the students every day have access to fresh vegetables from the garden, as well as the other foods provided by the parents to supplement the government-supplied staples such as rice and canned meats.

Students currently take their lunches to classrooms, or either eat them in walkways joining classrooms or under the shade of trees in the school grounds. The open-air cafeteria will provide a serving and seating area sheltered from the sun and rain, which will reduce litter and food scraps in other school areas. The Schwab grant money will be used for construction materials for the structure. Parents will provide the labor as well as tables and chairs. The plan is to have the cafeteria complete before the beginning of the next school year. 

“We are active in the community and my husband is a member of the Public Works Committee,” Andon says. “We have donated seedlings for the school garden and been part of PTA activities. Playing my part in empowering friends, family, and the wider community to improve their lives and those of their children means the world to me.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Learn more about the Lori Ann Schwab ’95 Alumni Grant and how to apply for the 2023 grant.

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