University of Virginia third-year student Nicole Muller – whose efforts to fight hunger have made headlines since high school – has secured a $25,000 grant for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank from One A Day Women’s Nutrition Mission.
Muller, a politics major in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, submitted a detailed application to the One A Day Women’s Nutrition Mission for the grant, which was awarded to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank on her behalf. The grant recognized the “Neighbors-4-Neighbors” program that Muller founded in the summer before her junior year at Western Albemarle High School in Crozet.
“I am thrilled about being a recipient of this generous grant of $25,000,” Muller wrote in an email. “It will allow me to aid 100,000 of our local community members that are in need of food assistance. I am undoubtedly grateful for the support that Neighbors-4-Neighbors continues to receive. “
Including the most recent grant, Muller has raised more than $45,000 for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, allowing it to provide more than 180,000 meals. Nationwide, Neighbors-4-Neighbors has secured more than 575,000 pounds of food, enough to feed one meal to nearly 450,000 people.
“It’s inspirational to all of us at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to see Nicole’s passion for helping her neighbors manifest itself in such an extraordinary way,” said Michael McKee, chief executive officer of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “Her support is all the more meaningful now, as so many hardworking families are seeking our help, in particular, the underemployed who are piecing together low-wage or part-time work to get by.”
Muller got her start after she read how the recession was stressing local food banks, which were experiencing more demand and fewer donations. She emailed people in her neighborhood asking for donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Then she emailed local people she knew outside her immediate neighborhood, and the email chain spread. Then she grew even more ambitious and emailed people all over the country, asking them to donate to their local food banks. If she did not know someone in a state, she emailed the governor.
In 2011, Glamour magazine listed Muller among “21 Amazing Young Women” for her work.
“I know that as one person, I have been able to positively impact, thus far, the lives of a half million people less fortunate than me,” she wrote. “I have enjoyed being able to motivate people from all walks of life and at all different ages to want to help their own community members that are in need. It's a really good feeling to know that you have made a difference and given back to the world. Paying it forward is something I have been taught from an early age and agree with this principle.”
Muller has persisted with her food drives because the recession has continued, pushing hunger along with it.
“I organize several annual community and nationwide food drives to aid the local food bank as well as those in the remaining 49 states,” she wrote. “In March, I run a community school-wide food drive, involving public and private elementary, middle and high schools. I coordinate the food drive weeks at the various participating schools, assign pick-up and delivery dates for food donations with the food bank and the schools, keep tallies of all donations per school and recognize the three top schools with the most donations per student in partnership with the food bank.”
She organizes a national food drive every October, encouraging both food and monetary donations to local food banks in all 50 states as part of Neighbors-4-Neighbors. Muller also coordinates an annual drive at the ACAC Health and Fitness Club’s two Charlottesville locations.
Aside from her work with the food banks, she served as a summer intern with a local event-planning firm and since May has worked as a student ambassador at U.Va.’s Colonnade Club.
Muller, through her study of politics and the world, has seen that problems such as hunger can be widespread, but she also believes the solution may be simple.
“I have valued the impact that one random and small act of kindness can have on others' lives and how it can avalanche into other acts of kindness and take on a life of its own in a positive direction,” Muller wrote. “I see the world as smaller and see the gap between each of us as closing. We never know when we might be on the other side of the ‘have and need’ dichotomy.”