Niagara University is one of three postsecondary institutions in the country – and one of seven organizations of any kind – to receive a $50,000 grant through NobleCause, a grant competition mobilizing volunteers to address the greatest challenges facing their communities.

The $50,000 awards were available to organizations “working to assemble partners to develop volunteer leaders to work toward multiplying the number of volunteers needed to address significant local issues.”

Niagara University will leverage the grant to address food insecurity in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where a recent study found that 70 percent of residents are eligible for food stamps and 15 percent of the city’s most vulnerable residents have urgent concerns for food.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to further extend our Catholic and Vincentian mission into Niagara Falls,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president. “With more people working to alleviate some of the challenges that come with a lack of access to nutritional foods, we can make a sustainable positive impact on the lives of our neighbors in need.”

The plan will include volunteer activities throughout the year, but build around three components:

  1. A pilot project that resulted from a social entrepreneurship competition held last spring at NU. The program, which will be held monthly for one year, will teach Niagara Falls residents about healthy eating and food preparation, how to cook healthy and nutritious meals on a budget, and provide them with the ingredients needed to practice and prepare the meal at home.
  2. An extensive outreach and engagement initiative where student volunteers from Niagara University and the local community will engage in ongoing and regular outreach at community events and activities in targeted neighborhoods in Niagara Falls. Volunteers will distribute information designed to increase awareness and understanding of nutrition and healthy eating.
  3. Students from NU’s School of Nursing will be available at the monthly events to offer free health screenings that may include, for example, checks on blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI (Body Mass Index), height and weight, etc. Nursing students will also participate in ancillary community outreach and engagement activities alongside other volunteers to help people understand the impact of food on their family’s health.

Local celebrity chef Bobby Anderson, who was a Hell’s Kitchen contestant, will develop and prepare each of the demonstration meals.

The food demonstrations, the main component of the project, will be rotated monthly among the five community locations of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority:

  • Harry S. Jordan Gardens, 2910 Highland Ave.
  • Packard Court, 4200 Pine Ave.
  • Anthony Spallino Towers, 720 Tenth St.
  • Henry E. Wrobel Towers, 800 Niagara Ave.
  • Beloved Community, 1710 Calumet Ave.

“This project is about improving quality of life,” stated Stephanie W. Cowart, executive director of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, the agency partnering with NU on the initiative. “The Niagara Falls Housing Authority is proud to be part of a project that fills a much-needed gap in our community. Access to healthy food is essential in our ongoing mission to remove as many obstacles as possible for our residents and community. We thank Niagara University for its leadership and dedication to community.”

“The key to this project is to obtain and maintain resident engagement, providing them with useful information and memorable experiences with end-goals of empowering them to make healthy changes in their lives,” noted Dr. David Taylor, director of the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. Institute of Civic Engagement. “We will help families overcome the obstacles that they face accessing food day-to-day, and develop strategies to improve community access to healthy and affordable food.” Dr. Taylor noted that Niagara University staff, faculty, and students regularly volunteer throughout the region, in service to the community.

The Community Kitchen project grew from an idea developed by a team of Niagara University students to address food, nutrition, and hunger in Niagara Falls; the team won the inaugural EntrepreNU poverty-focused social entrepreneurship competition. This volunteer outreach and engagement initiative will allow them to test assumptions, work through logistics, and establish key relationships for the Community Kitchen before committing to a stand-alone enterprise.

NobleCause is made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation and organized by, a volunteer management tool that promotes a culture of civic engagement and charts meaningful, measurable acts of goodness. The competition awarded 107 organizations with $6,500 and seven organizations received $50,000 grants.

For a full list of funded projects, visit

“We set out to encourage communities throughout the country to tell us their big, sustainable ideas to inspire quality volunteerism,” said Wesley Barnett, managing partner for TreeTop Commons and NobleHour. “By organizing local volunteers to address local concerns, NobleCause award recipients are defining social responsibility right in their own communities.”

Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, Florida, and Portland, Oregon, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country. For more information on the NobleCause grant competition, visit To learn more about NobleHour, visit

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