Sanchez gives DIVE new meaning

Jan. 16, 2018

By Zac Ellis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In high school, Namilla Sanchez started a nonprofit organization that tackled a unique problem in America: food waste. Sanchez, who goes by Nemo, recognized early in her life the impact of wasted food in the United States, and she worked closely with food waste initiatives in her home state of Florida to help alleviate that problem.

That interest in food waste was the primary reason why Sanchez, a sophomore freestyler on the Vanderbilt swim team, took part in a university pilot program called DIVE: Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience. The program’s goal is to “teach human-centered design thinking to students so that they may solve complex, real-world problems, develop critical thinking skills, and work in multidisciplinary teams during an immersive, mentored project,” per the Vanderbilt University website.

As part of a student-led group last fall, Sanchez volunteered with a Nashville-based organization that focused on food waste initiatives. She said the life of a student-athlete hammers home the importance of food in one’s day-to-day life.

“I think it comes from being an athlete,” Sanchez said. “I understand how important food is for performance and engaging in everything you do. I think about all the people that don’t have the accessibility to food that I have as a student-athlete. I’ve begun to feel like it was a calling to help those who are food insecure. We have the food in the U.S., it’s just a matter of distributing it effectively.”

DIVE, which launched in the fall of 2017, allows students to design methods to streamline the efficiency of organizations. Last fall, the program offered projects surrounding either food waste or affordable housing, but Sanchez’s group focused on food waste. Students were tasked with identifying a problem facing an organization, designing a solution to that problem and presenting the solution to the group at semester’s end.

DIVE partnered Sanchez and her colleagues with a national food waste initiative in Nashville. The group soon recognized that the organization’s approach to marketing and branding could be streamlined. That became the focal point of Sanchez’s project.

“We basically designed a new advertising and marketing strategy,” Sanchez said. “We created a fresh look that could be used on flyers, social media and whatever other medium the organization would need.”

The DIVE experience opened Sanchez’s eyes to a subject about which she was already passionate. She said she would encourage all student-athletes to apply for the program in the future.

“I learned through DIVE that if we reduce our food waste by just 30 percent and redistribute it effectively, we could take care of the 48 million Americans who are food insecure,” Sanchez said. “I was already passionate about hunger and food waste, but it was an eye-opening experience to be a part of DIVE at Vanderbilt.”

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.