Exploring Nutrition was created with the help of La Salle University with the mission “to create a model by which urban universities can, in partnership with local businesses, community organizations, and religious institutions, utilize collective resources and expertise to have a positive impact on their neighborhood’s health and nutritional well-being”.
La Salle University has partnered with “Fresh Grocer” grocery store and with several local businesses and religious organizations to improve the nutrition provided in the neighborhood. Dr. Marjie Allen, chair of Integrative Studies at La Salle University told me about the beginnings and inner workings of Exploring Nutrition.
One goal of the Exploring Nutrition program is to maintain food mapping of local businesses. This entails going to every store that sells food in the area and recording what products they sell, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. Allen said that when she had students do this research, some were astonished when they found that McDonald’s had more fresh fruit options than some of the corner stores they stopped at.
Allen said that it was seen through studies both nationally and locally that the nutrition and fresh food available in poorer neighborhoods was subpar. This lack of quality has lead to health issues such as obesity. La Salle University, being in a poorer neighborhood, decided to take a proactive step to fight the malnourishment and hunger that was living in the university’s backyard.
At the time of the last food mapping, there were three supermarkets in the area that provided fresh foods; Fresh Grocer, Pathmark, and Bottom Dollar. Recently, Bottom Dollar has closed due to a corporate buy-out.
Fresh Grocer was built within the last 10 years by La Salle University as a way to get better food and nutrition into the neighborhood. In a National Housing Institute article about getting fresh foods into low income communities, writer Rebecca Flournoy points out the added benefits of having a super market in these communities.
“The stores create jobs for local residents, capture dollars currently being spent outside of the community, recycle money in the local economy and increase local sales tax revenue”, said Flournoy.
Allen said that the program and focus on getting better nutrition is for all members of the community, both young and old. The children need the nutrition to physical develop and mentally develop and do well in school. Allen once again referred to her students who participated in the recent food mapping. Some of the students noted in their reports, the cracked and unstable sidewalks that surrounded the neighborhood and local corner stores. The elderly may likely have trouble trying to keep their balance from these unsafe conditions.
Allen said “Imagine if you were them, trying to keep balance with your cane or walker and then trying to keep your balance when leaving with your hands full of groceries”.
As La Salle’s Exploring Nutrition program continues to grow and become part of food shelter’s and soup kitchen’s missions, be sure to see more fresh foods throughout the neighborhood.