Meet Our Graduates: Hannah Lennox, First Health and Phys. Ed. Student to Complete Honors Program

Hannah Lennox posing and smiling
Rhode Island College Impact

For her honors project, this graduating senior surveyed users of R.I. food pantries in five different cities to uncover causes of food insecurity.

Hannah Lennox, a RIC senior in the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE), has become the department’s first student to complete the College Honors Program.

Designed for motivated students with superior academic records, RIC’s College Honors Program provides individualized study, honors classes and opportunities to engage in other unique intellectual and social activities.

In their senior year, College Honors students have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project on a topic of their choice, directed by a professor of their choice. Lennox, who is a community and public health promotion major, chose Assistant Professor Leah Dorfman as her honors thesis advisor and titled her project: Food Insecurity and Food Justice in the Rhode Island Food Bank.

“I started out as a dance major,” Lennox says, “but in my sophomore year, I chose a community and public health promotion major because of the health inequities and social injustices I was seeing all around me – particularly in areas like South Providence. It may sound cheesy, but I wanted to create a better world, and I thought public health was a great way to do that. I’m particularly interested in food insecurity.”

Last year Lennox interned at the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, where she collaborated with other students to conduct observational surveys of bodegas around Rhode Island. It was an effort to understand and analyze healthy food and beverage options within the bodegas. 

This year, her honors project had her engaged in a field study, where she collected data (passed out surveys) at food pantries supplied by the Rhode Island Food Bank. In all, she surveyed 50 participants in five cities.

“The surveys asked if they had enough food in the past year and if they experienced any barriers to accessing food. My data confirmed that those who experience food insecurity are likely to be low income, unemployed or households with children. Some of the barriers to food that they cited were time, weather, gas prices, food prices and inflation. With our current inflation, food stamps, for most people, only last about half a month.”

Lennox then wrote her honors thesis based on her findings and defended it this semester, in the presence of faculty, family and friends.

“Working with Hannah was an absolute pleasure,” says Dorfman. “She’s a very self-directed and self-motivated student. It was very rewarding watching her grow over the past year and really develop her data analysis and scientific writing skills. I’m also extremely proud of her accomplishment of being the first student in our department to complete the College Honors Program.”

In the future, Lennox hopes to work for a government public health agency, such as the Rhode Island Department of Health. “I want to implement programs that give people more resources to live a healthier life,” she says. Lennox intends apply to the University of New England’s graduate program in public health.

She advises prospective community and public health promotion majors to “be open, because it’s a very big field. It’s very broad, and you can do wide a variety of things with this major.” This is a major for anyone who wants to influence the health of individuals and communities through education, policy changes and health promotion programs.