Alabama HBCU receives grant to limit food insecurity

Alabama State University has been awarded $300,000 to support improved agricultural studies at the Montgomery school.

Alabama State University has been awarded $300,000 to support agricultural studies at the school. 

Dr. Michelle Samuel-Foo, an assistant biology professor who joined the HBCU’s faculty in 2008, wrote the grant proposal to better integrate AgriTech and limit food insecurity for Alabama State University students, according to The Montgomery Advertiser. Samuel-Foo built a garden on a half-acre of land, which provides fresh food to students at the university. 

The Propel HBCU Consortium announced the grant on Friday.

Alabama State University has been awarded $300,000 to support agricultural studies at the Montgomery HBCU.  (Photo: Screenshot/

The Advertiser report says the grant will provide $100,000 for Apple products running an iOS-based app that will scan QR codes on the plants. Further, visitors to the garden will be able to scan the codes and get nutritional information — and even some simple recipes. 

“So initially, there was some hesitation,” Samuel-Foo said of the ASU attendees and how they felt about the garden. “But, once students volunteered that initial time, we had students that even after they graduated come back wanting to be involved in the garden. They’re definitely excited, and we’re happy for them.”

One student, Audryanna Stokes, told the Advertiser the ASU garden gave her the confidence to start her own.

The report notes agriculture programs are not typically very popular at HBCUs because of their association with historic field labor. However, Samuel-Foo says there are many jobs in that specialty that could benefit from the presence of African Americans, including with the Department of Agriculture and an array of food sciences. 

Dr. Charles Gibb of the Propel Center called the award a “small token of our appreciation” — to which Dr. Quinton Ross Jr., ASU’s president, replied jokingly, “if this is small, I do want to know what big is.” 

According to the Propel Center’s website, its mission is to serve as “a catalytic epicenter of learning that provides HBCU students with the knowledge, skills, tools and resources necessary to transform our nation’s talent pipeline and workforce. Our vision is to build generations of black leaders who advance equity and justice through technology, entrepreneurship, education and social impact.”

The Atlanta-based center is committed to transforming HBCU students into civic-minded leaders capable of dismantling systemic injustice while shaping the future through innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The Propel Agri-Tech program advances the creation of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture, with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability. 

Gene Wade, the CEO of the Propel Center, says his organization has an “unprecedented opportunity to prepare the next generation of African Americans for leadership in the innovation economy.” 

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