All posts by markcwilson1

Journalist, Blogger, Philly Sports fan, Lover of all things Buffalo Chicken

Healthy wrap-up

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.

Click on map above to open interactive Google Map to see locations of Easter Food Drive
Click on map above to open interactive Google Map to see locations of Easter Food Drive

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.

With help from The Fresh Grocer, La Salle's LGU students ran a successful Easter Food Drive. Click on the picture to see a slideshow about the event.
With help from The Fresh Grocer, La Salle’s LGU students ran a successful Easter Food Drive. Click on the picture to see a slideshow about the event.

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.

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Meating new guidelines

Every five years, new dietary guidelines are released in the United States. These guidelines are reviewed by the Department of Health and Human Services and once agreed upon, the new guidelines become law. Julie Ann Henstenberg, the Director of Nutrition at La Salle University, presented on the new guidelines which are scheduled to be official in the fall of 2015.

Julie Anne Henstenberg, Director of Nutrition at La Salle University. Photo from Lasalle.edu
Julie Anne Henstenberg, Director of Nutrition at La Salle University. Photo from Lasalle.edu

These guidelines set the standard for dietary and nutrition in the United States. Since these guidelines become law, they are open for discussion and comments from citizens.  Henstenberg said “They [guidelines] have never been too out there, like make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables”. She continued to describe that the committee always felt that guidelines could be influenced due to the power of the food industry if guidelines became too specific. This time around, some critics are finding the guidelines a little tough to swallow.

Food Sustainability and Safety is a brand new guideline and its creating controversy. Based off scientific reports and findings, the guidelines make the recommendation to lower red meat consumption. Healthy nutrition is now defined as low intake red and processed meat. With this decision Henstenberg asked the question, “Who’s going to define what our guidelines are?”

Everyone in the United States can help define the guidelines because all laws are open for comment and debate. However, some of the most astonishing information for red meat consumption reduction comes from Johns Hopkins. Hopkins found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation. The industry is also contributing to the reduction of the Amazon Rainforest. Soy is grown in South America in the rainforest. Soy farmers are cutting down the rain forest to make more room to grow soy.

"Meatless Monday" logo. Photo from tumblr.com
“Meatless Monday” logo. Photo from tumblr.com

“Meatless Mondays is becoming a popular trend,” said Henstenberg. Not eating meat one day a week will reduce consumption for healthier living and a healthier planet.

La Salle supports residents with health program

Dr. Edie Goldbacher is a clinical health psychologist at La Salle University. As a professor, she teaches mainly doctoral students about the psychological effects of weight issues. She serves as a resource for members of both the La Salle and local community when it comes to weight loss and healthy eating. She focuses with her weight loss program participants on the importance of nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Dr. Edie Goldbacher. Photo from La Salle University
Dr. Edie Goldbacher. Photo from La Salle University

The American Medical Association recently classified obesity as a medical condition. Between 1990 and 2010, some regions in the United States went from little to no data on BMI (Body Mass Index) to 30 percent of the population over a BMI of 30. The BMI is the weight-height ratio of an individual and is used to calculate if someone is overweight or not.

While there are a variety of reasons of obesity, a special look is being taken at childhood obesity. Some of the reasons for childhood obesity include poor food choices and lack of physical activity. These reasons are common in impoverished neighborhoods. These neighborhoods tend to have more community violence causing residents, especially children, to stay inside for their own safety.

Goldbacher’s programs focus on “helping people learn new behaviors”. Goldbacher said when working with participants, the overall goal may be to lose 40 pounds. We break it down into smaller more achievable goals. When it comes to the relapse prevention stage of the program, Goldbacher asks her participants “You’ve lost some weight, you’ve changed your eating behaviors, and now how do we maintain that.”

Some of the psychological factors are the reasons for the weight problem. Goldbacher helps to identify the thinking patterns to help the participant. Participants track how much food is eaten and the exercise.

The program runs 12-20 weeks and the cost varies based on the participant’s income. The program has a basic structure but is customized to each participant’s abilities and desires. The program is run through La Salle University.

End waste, end hunger

A new bill has been proposed in Congress to help end hunger in the United States. The bill would offer incentives in the form of tax deducible donations to food banks. Farmers to big corporations would be eligible for the tax break if they donate extra food to food banks. This comes on the heels of a United Nations initiative to reduce international food waste and world hunger.

The United Nations found that 1.3 billion tons of food gets wasted. Nearly 300 million tons are wasted every year by first world countries, especially the United States. It is no just that food is being wasted but all the resources required to get the food to our plates is also being wasted. Cost of processing, transportation, and labor all become “thrown away” when we throw out our extra food.

The United Nation’s campaign is titled “Think, Eat, Save“. The United States calls their national effort “Fighting Hunger Incentive Act”.

The UN's "Think, Eat, Save" Campaign's logo
The UN’s “Think, Eat, Save” Campaign’s logo

While both the UN and United State’s are taking positive steps to fight hunger, I think the UN has the better idea. I see the UN’s efforts as a way to educate the world about the issue but also finds sponsors in major company and local farmers alike to support the cause for what it is. The United States is putting a monetary value on the needs of the hungry. The tax breaks in the United States could result in well over a billion dollars in lost revenue. If this is the case, where will the US government cut over a billion dollars in spending.

Cut the scraps! We need to become more responsible with our excess food. Photo from foodwastenetwork.org.uk
Cut the scraps! We need to become more responsible with our excess food.
Photo from foodwastenetwork.org.uk

While the United States is usually the model country when it comes to world issues and leadership, ending hunger is an issue the US should be in the passenger seat for. The US needs to stop wasting its time and food on the “Fighting Hunger Incentive Act” and join the fight to “Think, Eat, and Save”.

The Fresh Grocer providing fresh nutrition

The Fresh Grocer has become a staple in residents’ lives in the Olney and Logan neighborhoods. Students and residents both rely on The Fresh Grocer for not only regular food items but also fresh options.

I recently interviewed some people that shop at The Fresh Grocer on Chew Ave in the Olney/Logan neighborhoods. They all noted how the store is convenient and one of the very few places to get fresh food.

I asked what they thought were the benefits of having a store like The Fresh Grocer in their neighborhood is. I also asked what some of the negatives were in addition to alternative shopping options in the neighborhood.

These interviews are part of my goal of bringing awareness about the lack of healthy and nutritional food options in city neighborhoods. For those that live in the suburbs, it is easy to have numerous grocery store or corner stores to go get your desired groceries. Personally, there are 2 grocery stores and a mom and pop food market within a mile of my house. Not everyone is as lucky. Other La Salle students mapped the food options in the Olney/Logan neighborhood for a senior nutrition project. These students found that the McDonalds had some of the healthiest options because McDonalds offers fruit and salads.

La Salle students Bill Repetto and Alex Miller (pictured below) both rely on The Fresh Grocer for food. Olney resident Reggie Johnson recognized the great benefit The Fresh Grocer is to the neighborhood. Listen to the interviews for their respective responses on my Sound cloud page.

Student Alex Miller poses in front of The Fresh Grocer after he stopped to pick up food for the week
Student Alex Miller poses in front of The Fresh Grocer after he stopped to pick up food for the week
La Salle student Bill Repetto poses with some of his gluten free food. Without Fresh Grocer, Repetto wouldn't be sure where he could get food from.
La Salle student Bill Repetto poses with some of his gluten free food. Without Fresh Grocer, Repetto wouldn’t be sure where he could get food from.

Keep in mind the next time your are at the store how lucky you may be to easily walk into the store and get all sorts of healthy food. Some neighborhoods may not have the same benefit or may only have one option.

New notes not to miss

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for following and reading my blog. The past week I have taken off for spring break. Some good old fashion relaxing was just what the doctor ordered!  I’m back to it now and have added some HTML and PHP samples on the “Notes” page. I also recently added an infogram comparing the poverty rate in Philadelphia to surrounding areas. Head over to the “Notes” page and check it all out.