ECU student team competes against other universities at Social Entrepreneurship Conference

Four undergraduate students will represent East Carolina University on Friday at a UNC-system 2014 Social Entrepreneurship Conference at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

The ECU students are Trey Cook, Annaliese Gillette, Jessie Tucci-Herron and Justin Safin.

The team, called “Pirates Provide,” spent the fall semester working with Third Street Community Center in Greenville. They created a unique business plan to present at the social entrepreneurship competition based on the proposed development of a two-acre community garden at the center. The students will compete against 25 other undergraduate student teams at the event.

The garden is the centerpiece of the students’ proposal to create Third Street Community Harvest to address the social need of healthy food options. The goal is to provide residents access to affordable, fresh food and education about gardening and healthy lifestyle choices.

The center is located in a food desert area and within walking distance of most of the population of west Greenville, which is bounded by the Tar River, Memorial Drive, Greenville Boulevard and Fifth Street.

The garden would be established and maintained by the combined efforts of the community harvest, community partners and neighborhood residents including Pitt County’s Master Gardeners program. Grants, corporate and individual donations would be sought to help pay for an estimated $33,000 in start-up costs. Long-term plans call for the center to establish a culinary school and a small restaurant.

Faculty advisors are Austin Bunch, Ron Mitchelson, Beth Velde, Todd Fraley and Kindal Shores.

The concept of social entrepreneurship involves identifying large-scale social problems and working to solve them in creative ways. Positive social change is the goal, with or without profit earnings. The conference’s keynote speaker will be Tom Szaky, founder and chief executive officer of TerraCycle, a company that collects traditionally non-recyclable waste that is recycled into consumer products and materials that are then sold to retailers. The company is recognized for producing some of the most eco-friendly products in America.

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