Science & Tech

Statistics Student Finds University Food Insecurity Program Leads To Higher GPAs, Better Eating Habits

Texas A&M senior Erin Batta researched the effects of First Year Eats and, along the way, realized how she can use statistics to help people.
By Kailynn Nelson, Texas A&M University College of Arts and Sciences February 6, 2024

Erin Batta '24
Senior statistics major Erin Batta

Alexis Vallandingham ’24


When Erin Batta ’24 started college in 2020, she knew she wanted to study statistics. She specifically chose Texas A&M University for its renowned statistics program but was still determining a specific area of focus. That all changed with an invitation to participate in a research project showing her how she could use statistics to change lives.

During the summer before her sophomore year, Batta was invited to participate in a research project exploring the effectiveness of First Year Eats (FYE). Established in 2019 by LAUNCH, the program is part of the Texas A&M Hunger Consortium and focuses on solving food insecurity on campus. The program allows students to access food resources such as Crockpot meals and Monday meals. Students can also shop for food at the FYEats Store. FYE is open to all First Year Learning Community students.


“I chose this project because I wanted to research a topic that would clearly help people and make an impact,” she said.

As part of the research team, Batta investigated how the program affected students beyond their freshman year. She planned and executed her entire project from start to finish under the advisement of Dr. Alan Dabney, an associate professor in the Department of Statistics, and Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Executive Director for LAUNCH Dr. Sumana Datta.

Batta interviewed sophomores on campus who did and did not participate in the FYE program during their freshman year. Based on their answers, she concluded that students who participated in the program showed improvement in their eating habits, achieved higher GPAs and were less likely to leave school. At the end of the project, she was invited to present her research at the LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Scholars Symposium.

Students crack eggs into a bowl at a table covered with cooking ingredients
First Year Eats students practice their cooking skills.

Texas A&M University College of Arts and Sciences


Finding Her Calling

Batta says the project was exactly what she needed to find direction for her career. Beyond allowing her to see how she could use statistics to solve problems, it helped her uncover a research interest she didn’t know she had along the way. Somewhere in the process, she realized that she could impact the world around her by studying statistics.

“I enjoy being able to find answers to the questions I have about the world,” Batta said. “I like being able to test a hypothesis and get a clear answer that can help people.”

Batta continues to make a positive impact in her current work with the Public Policy Research Institute, where she evaluates programs related to criminal justice. While she isn’t exactly sure what her future will look like, she plans to keep exploring how to use statistics to help others. She encourages other statistics students to seek practical experience if they are struggling to determine their career path. From her own experience, she knows that practice makes perfect.

Media contact: Shana K. Hutchins,

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