Exploring Nutrition: The Building Blocks

“We are what we eat. We eat junk, we’re going to wind up being junk.”

Two weeks after the Easter food drive at Hosley Temple CME Church, Rev. Alfred Jones Jr. explained his desire to supply for the various needs in the Germantown area of Philadelphia.

“I won’t be here forever, but the people … will still be here,” the reverend said.

According a new grass roots movement, Exploring Nutrition, one of those needs is better nutrition. La Salle University is partnering with Hosley Temple and several other churches and schools to improve eating habits in the Germantown / Olney area.

Tom Wingert, a founding member of the movement, described Exploring Nutrition’s goals as three-fold. He explained the project will educate students via service learning, increase awareness via community outreach, and execute change via needs assessment and food drives. Wingert referred to Olney as a former “food desert“, where there is little or no healthy food available to the general public. Yet, he claimed the addition of a Fresh Grocer in 2009 gave people in the neighborhood access to healthy food.

But Wingert went on to say that “access to [healthy] food is not enough”. Earlier this year, sixty-five professors met with twenty pastors, including Reverend Jones, to discuss the issue. It was decided that more could be done to improve the nutrition in their area of the city, and groundwork was laid for Exploring Nutrition.

How to Explore Nutrition

Rev. Jones’ Easter food drive was a small, but important part of a much larger project. His ideas, however, reflect much of the spirit behind the movement started by La Salle staff.

“The challenge … how can we help? [How can we] use the technology, use the education to give back to community?”

La Salle staff took it upon themselves to integrate Exploring Nutrition into several disciplines within the college. Digital Art & Multimedia Design students are constructing the visual element of the initiative. It was their idea to change the name of the movement from the Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project to “Exploring Nutrition”, which harkens to the school’s mascot: The Explorer. Alongside marketing students, these designers are giving Exploring Nutrition a face and a name worthy of getting behind.

The Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project is now Exploring Nutrition.

The Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project is now Exploring Nutrition.

Those in public relations are also learning what goes into a grass roots movement. Leadership and Global Understanding minors are part of developing the infrastructure of the project, which includes an Academic Enrichment Program, and community needs assessments. Students are getting hands on experience while supporting the drive for better food for their neighbors. The psychology, economics, and communications departments are also involved in a second tier of research. While social work majors are getting close to the issue of nutrition, large scale data is being reviewed by classes such as Online Journalism. While not involved in the project itself, these students blog objectively about Exploring Nutrition’s development, just as psychology and economy majors review the raw data.

Building Better Nutrition

Explore Nutrition does not officially begins until next fall. However, partnerships are being built now which will make up the project once it begins. Since Fresh Grocer was a key part of preventing Olney from staying a food dessert, La Salle staff saw it as a key part of promoting good nutrition habits.

Rev. Jones expressed his appreciation for Fresh Grocer’s contribution to the church’s Easter Food Drive. He stressed the church was doing nothing abnormal, as there is food available every Tuesday of the week, yet he was grateful that Fresh Grocer provided nutritious products in addition to the meal, clothing, and other regular provisions.

Part of the research effort is to discover what it is the corner stores have for the neighborhood, and how Exploring Nutrition can expand any existing effort to make healthy food available. Tom Wingert also explained that, although Fresh Grocer is a business like any other, it is “in now way competing with” food cupboards like nearby Weaver’s Way. Rather, it is the goal of Exploring Nutrition to build partnerships to promote healthy eating throughout the Neighborhood.

Having been a minister over 17 years, Rev. Alfred Jones Jr. understands the challenges of meeting people’s needs. “I don’t want to say ‘I need this, I need that’. I’m saying: ‘Come look.'” Along with other Exploring Nutrition members, he invites anyone interested to see the nutrition problems in Olney and Germantown, and think about what they can do to help.

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Final Video Mission Statement

My group and I will be interviewing Reverend Alfred Jones of Hosley Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal about the La Salle’s Explore Nutrition Easter food drive as well as general food and health issues in the community.

Some questions I would like to ask are:

1) Did you think the Easter food drive was successful? What would have made it better?
2) Who does the Easter food drive benefit? Is it open to all members of the community or just the congregation?
3) Where does the food for the Easter food drive come from?
4) What kind of food products do you typically receive? Are they healthy?
5) Can you talk about the neighborhood’s response to the Easter food drive?
6) What are some of your biggest concerns regarding health and nutrition in the neighborhood?
7) Do you feel like health and nutrition is getting worse in the area? If so, what makes you feel this way?
8) How did Holsey start the Easter food drive?
9) How did Holsey get involved with “Explore Nutrition”?
10) What about “Explore Nutrition” excites you the most?
11) Why is nutrition important to you?

•    The overall purpose of our video is to offer a perspective on health and nutrition in the greater Olney area from members of the community, who are involved in distributing food to the hungry. A specific goal we have in telling this story is to raise awareness about health and nutrition issues in the neighborhood. Some components we will need
•    Assigned roles for each member of the team (e.g. producer, main photographer, secondary photographer, note taker/logging, sound, interviewer, video editor, writer)
Producer: Lauren Stair
Video Editor: Jon Matos
Interviewer: Joe Trinacria

A Place at the Table – Movie Review – 2013

Barbie Izquierdo feeds her children spaghetti bought with food stamps.

Barbie Izquierdo feeds her children spaghetti bought with food stamps.

I’ve volunteered at Bethel Chapel Church for the past 5 years. In this time, I have participated in several food drives at the Kensington Neighborhood House, which is loosely affiliated with my church. Due to budget restrictions, they are considering whether to stay open as a food cupboard, or perhaps convert their operation to a counseling center.

A Place at the Table is a film about diagnosing hunger in America. This is a complex problem, whether you are a small soup kitchen in Kensington, or you are Jeff Bridges, actor turned activist who has spent more than 30 years raising awareness of this issue. He started with founding the End Hunger campaign in 1984, he produced the film Hidden in America in 1996 that also addressed this issue, and now, in 2013, he is still fighting.

This is due, in large part, to inaction on the part of the government. Though the Child Nutrition Act was renewed in 2010, experts in the film point out a major fatal flaw: funding was taken from the food stamps program to pay for the new initiative. In one of many easily understood info-graphics throughout the film, we see how only 6 cents are being added to the pot to get kids better food.

Though the issue of hunger has many layers, the variety of people interviewed, from the Colorado countryside to inner city  Philadelphia, gives the audience a good sense of the problem. Teachers, doctors, authors, clergymen, chefs, lawyers all help focus in on what the problem really is. At times, this can feel overwhelming, yet the film, directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, never feels erratic, but develops an organic rhythm.

Likewise, the Kensington Neighborhood House employed several volunteers, including my family, to interview people in the neighborhood to see what they needed. Like many in this film, they wanted better education, better employment, better relationships in addition to better food. The film does its best work when it shows that the problem is not food, and we do have the resources to end hunger. Rather than leaving you hopeless, the film empowers you to envision your ideal America, and see how it can easily become a reality.

North and South Poles

A great thing about Olney is its diversity.

There are many different kinds of people going to school here, working here, passing through or living here 24/7. The eateries reflect that: you can get soul food from a food cart, cuisine from Asia or from Jamaica. There are almost no limits.

Yet, when I went to the “Shoppes at LaSalle” mall, I noticed an interesting contrast. Fresh Grocer is at one side of the mall, and Dunkin Donuts is at the other.

This immediately brought to my mind the common misconception about healthy living: I either have to shop at a place like “Fresh Grocer” or I have to “run on Dunkin”. But, as there are a numerous places to eat in Olney, so are there numerous shades and degrees of healthy or unhealthy food.

There’s no reason to tie yourself to trendy “health food stores”, or spend all your time at a fast food place. There are plenty of options: you just have to look.