Kent State student starts organization to end world hunger

Kelly Petryszyn

A Kent State student has Hy-Hopes for hunger – hydroponic hopes, that is.

Monica Cowen, communication counseling graduate student, is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, Hy-Hopes.

Cowen said the organization wants to provide education about hydroponics and nutrition, while using hydroponic greenhouses to produce food and a filtration system to produce purified water to reduce world hunger.

According to the Hy-Hopes Web site, hydroponic technology uses highly oxygenated, purified water and organic nutrients to yield more produce than traditional farming.

“There needs to be a paradigm shift from traditional farming to hydroponics,” Cowen said.

During travels as an undergraduate, Cowen said she realized people around the world were lacking the basic necessities, such as food and water.

“My goal is to meet the basic needs (of people) locally initially, then abroad,” she said.

To accomplish this goal, Cowen founded Hy-Hopes in April 2008, basing her project on hydroponic technology.

Cowen said food prices contribute to the problem now because “more people are eating low-quality food at high prices.”

She wants to solve this problem by starting local initiatives in Northeast Ohio high schools and middle schools. She plans to place commercial greenhouses that provide food and educational greenhouses to teach people about hydroponics in schools and communities.

Cowen said the benefits of hyrdroponic technology include:

n producing more food at a faster rate than traditional farming.

n yielding zero carbon emissions because it relies on growing food locally.

n using zero pesticides.

n containing zero runoff.

n being sustainable because it doesn’t deplete natural resources. It uses solar power.

Barb Baltrinic, board member and treasurer of Hy-Hopes, said hydroponics is “a more economical and healthy way of feeding society.”

Locally grown food saves money on transportation, and the investment cost will be earned back over several years, she said. Food grown with hydroponics will be sold at a more affordable price.

Cowen said this technology will also stimulate the economy by providing jobs.

“I want the community to be a part of the initiative to know how important it is to be self-sufficient and improve their lives,” she said.

Hy-Hopes is working with African Sky, an organization dedicated to African food production, in Mali to provide highly purified water for African people to drink, she said.

The directors are currently working to get funding for the project, Baltrinic said.

Kent State’s Community Involvement Department is working with Cowen to spark student involvement and start fundraisers.

This organization is an opportunity for “using the privileges we have to help others in a positive way,” said Megan Odell-Scott, Ohio Campus Compact and AmeriCorps VISTA.

Odell-Scott met with Cowen Thursday and said Cowen plans to set up a meeting soon about fundraising at Kent State. She’s also looking for a team to work with her.

Cowen said this technology could reduce world hunger, because it produces food year-round, as opposed to just nine months of the year.

“A small thing like producing food can be a catalyst for long-term change, especially in developing countries,” she said.

Contact news correspondent Kelly Petryszyn

at [email protected].