Since January I have had the unique opportunity to follow students from La Salle University’s Leadership and Global Understanding program. In the spring of 2015, these students focused on supporting local food charities in the neighborhoods surrounding La Salle University. These food charities focus on providing meals to individuals and families alike. The meals are healthy and wholesome meals. In following the students I quickly learned that the bigger goal is to not just feed people, but to make people’s live healthier.
La Salle provided numerous speakers throughout the past few months. The speakers were students and faculty alike. These speakers focused on the health impact of La Salle University’s community outreach programs. Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a psychology professor at La Salle helps organize and run a health clinic that educates local residents about healthy living. Dr. Goldbacher’s program focuses on the psychology causes and effects of health related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and malnutrition. She spoke about how many of those that are affected by these types of diseases, have limited resources and control over the disease. She also added those affected have limited control over what they are able to consume due to where they live. The program Goldbacher runs with La Salle specifically helps those that live in food deserts.
Director of the Leadership and Global Understanding program Dr.Marjorie Allen spoke to me about food deserts. A food desert is an area that does not have much or any access to fresh food, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables. In these areas, there are not many super markets or the super markets are quite some travel time. While there are corner stores, many do not have refrigeration to store and sell fresh foods in. In the neighborhoods surround La Salle, some of the healthier food options come from fast food restaurants that offer salads and fruit slices as alternatives to French fries.
Another community outreach program supported by La Salle University is Pheed Philadelphia. Pheed Philadelphia is a soup kitchen program that is aimed to fight hunger in the local community. Student leaders of Pheed Philadelphia take fellow students weekly to soup kitchens. Students help prepare, cook, and serve the food to those who come in seeking for a meal. Pheed Philadelphia serves numerous soup kitchens throughout the Olney, Logan, and surrounding neighborhoods. Student leader Molly Mahon spoke about the program. She has been involved with the program since her freshman year. The personal stories she shared about the bonds she formed with those who come into the soup kitchen. She added the joy she feels when she sees the hungry enjoying a meal they very much needed one.
In March, the Leadership and Global Understanding students held an Easter Food Drive. Co-sponsored and supported by The Fresh Grocer, the food drive sent food bundles for Easter dinners to 6 different food charities and churches in surrounding neighborhoods. The student leaders worked with local businesses and benefactors to secure food and monetary donations to distribute to the various locations. After doing so, the Leadership and Global Understanding students held two days of volunteering to help sort, package, and distribute the food. The first day involved receiving the delivery of all the fresh food and sorting it. With help from fellow La Salle University students and students from Wagner Middle School, an assembly line was formed and all the food was sorted and packed into food bundles. From there, the bundles were sorted and packed into boxes. On the second day, the student leaders packed vans and trucks with the food and delivered the food to the food charities and churches.
I learned a great deal about these community outreach programs but why they are so important and needed. For many of us, being able to go and get fresh food may be second nature. We may just hop in our car and drive to the local super market. To people living in impoverished neighborhoods, they may not have a car to go to the store in or there may not even be a store to go buy fresh food from. With few healthy food options to choose from, health issues can arise. It can become a vicious cycle because once health begins to decrease, healthy food options are more important but if healthy food can’t be obtained, health continues to deteriorate.
I was unaware of the various programs offered by La Salle University. I was also unaware of the number of the food charities in the area that distribute food to the hungry. I learned a great deal about health and nutrition. Dr. Goldbacher’s presentation about the psychology causes and effects of health issues was quite eye opening and interesting. Julie Henstenberg’s presentation about how health and eating standards outlined by the government are defined and created was extraordinarily interesting. Molly Mahon’s talk about her experiences of working in food kitchens with Pheed Philadelphia was truly moving.
Following these Leadership and Global Understanding students and watching the various speakers has truly been an amazing opportunity. As a reporter I am often behind a camera or a notepad documenting everything I see or hear. At times I had to stop and just take it all in first hand and not from behind a device. Just standing there and witnessing all the work that goes into making the day better for another person is awesome.
I have included a video that myself and a group of fellow reporters put together to highlight the speakers and work completed by the Leadership and Global Understanding students that was completed since January.