Exploring La Salle’s Efforts

In the United States, 14.6 percent of households suffer from food insecurity. That number jumps to 22 percent when looking at Philadelphia alone. This unfortunately means that Philadelphians are higher than the national average when it comes to hunger. La Salle University believes that everyone should have access to high quality foods, which is why the Exploring Nutrition Project was started to help those in need in the surrounding community.

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Exploring Nutrition aims to create a model by which urban universities can utilize collective resources and expertise to have a positive impact on their neighborhood’s health and nutritional well-being. “We wanted to give La Salle an identification as caring about hunger and that was the beginning of Exploring Nutrition,” said Dr. Marjorie Allen, chair of Integrative Studies. Neighborhood residents lived in a food desert, which means that they did not have easy access to a grocery store. La Salle donated the land that Fresh Grocer was built on to fulfill the need of a grocery store in the community, but this did not alleviate the hunger issues people faced.

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The following chart illustrates the obesity rates within the area that La Salle directly serves to the rates within all of Southeastern Pennsylvania. 72 percent of people who label their race as “Other” are obese in La Salle’s community, compared to only 34.2 percent in all of Southeastern Pennsylvania. A common misconception states that obese people cannot be suffering from hunger. However, due to the risk factors associated with poverty, food insecure people are especially vulnerable to obesity.

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Portion sizes have changed dramatically over time. For an extra ten cents, you can triple the value of the meal,” said La Salle Psychology Professor Dr. Edie Goldbacher. Eating fast food is cheap and comes in large quantities, so food insecure people tend to eat these unhealthy, fatty foods, which places them at greater risk for obesity.

If left untreated, obesity can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Due to its harmful effects, the La Salle Psychology department is targeting obesity in the community. La Salle’s urban location allows nutrition professionals to provide services to overweight people who may have otherwise not been able to afford them.

The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 hopes to increase the amount of food items that are donated to food banks and charities. On average, 40 percent of unsold fruits and vegetables go to waste in landfills. Upon passage of this bill, businesses would have more incentive to donate because they would receive tax breaks for doing so.

Republican Congressman Tom Reed, as well as other conservatives, favor this bill. “Fighting hunger is a bipartisan issue. We unite as Americans when our fellow citizens are suffering. When you look at the millions of Americans who are going hungry every day, Mr. Speaker, we shouldn’t be divisive,” said Reed. This Act has earned the support of multiple food banks including Feeding America, the largest antihunger group in America, and the National Council of Nonprofits.

Much like Feeding America, La Salle organizations also assist in providing food to people at local organizations. Pheed Philadelphia is a volunteer group that helps out at local food banks and soup kitchens. Pheed realizes how important it is to make each person in need feel dignified because they’re human, just like the rest of us.

Student volunteers, Becca Long and Molly Mahon, are just two of the many students who take time to help those in need. Both agreed that speaking with the homeless is the best part of volunteering because it personalizes the experience for not only them, but also those in need. “They’re the most resilient group of people I’ve come in contact with. I learn so much more than I do when in the confines of my classroom,” said Mahon.

Another La Salle student group, Leadership and Global Understanding, also works to help the community. Each year, La Salle volunteers host an Easter Food Drive where they partner with Fresh Grocer to deliver food to those in need. This year, over $4,000 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables were donated to 12 locations throughout the neighborhood. Watch this slideshow to find out more details about the event.

This map illustrates the 12 locations that receive help throughout the year.

The following video showcases the Easter Food Drive as well as the other ways in which La Salle staff and students are working to help make the community a healthier place for all.

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USDA Says To Eat Less Red Meat

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (USDA) 2015 dietary guidelines have created a controversy throughout the country due to the fact that it states that Americans should reduce their intake of red and processed meats. The dietary guidelines are updated every five years in a joint effort by the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA to encourage people to eat a healthful diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease.

Professor Jule Ann Henstenburg, director of the Nutrition program at La Salle University, said, “Usually, there’s lots of controversy in these guidelines because it’s long been thought that they’re fairly influenced by the food industry.” However, this newest guideline is asking Americans to limit their red meat consumption, which is something that has never before been stated in the guidelines.

Meanwhile, there are new movements taking place that are urging people to stay away from red meats. Meatless Mondays is a non-profit initiative with the message, “Once a week, cut the meat.” The goal of this movement is to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and the health of the planet.

imagesThe Meatless Mondays Movement works in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. According to their statistics, “Making one hamburger destroys approximately 55 square feet of rainforest.”

“One day off from meat can help sustainability in regard to the planet,” said Henstenburg. She went on to explain, “Eating meat is the most inefficient and resource intensive thing that a lot of us do.”

While there are many people in favor of cutting back on red meat consumption, there are also many opposed. One comment from the dietary guideline’s open forum stated, “As a cattle producer I take great pride in the beef products that I produce for America’s consumers. Today’s beef supply is leaner than ever before with more than 30 cuts of beef recognized as lean by the government’s own standards.”

Because there are two sides to this issue, La Salle’s nutrition program aims to educate and promote healthy lifestyles overall. For more information, visit the university’s nutrition website.

Easter Food Drive Gives to Community

Volunteers donating their Friday morning.

The Exploring Nutrition Project aims to educate and promote healthy eating within the surrounding community of La Salle University. This past weekend, the Easter Food Drive took place and volunteers from La Salle came out to help deliver donated food to those in need. For a full re-cap of the event, watch the following presentation by clicking on the photo.

La Salle Tackles Obesity

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This map from 2013 shows the severity of obesity across the United States.

More than one third of adults in the United States are obese. Obesity can cause heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer if left untreated. To combat this growing issue, La Salle University’s psychology department is working to target obesity.

Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a La Salle psychology professor, studies eating patterns and weight difficulties. Because of La Salle’s urban location, professionals are able to provide services to people who may have otherwise not been able to afford them. “I’ve come to appreciate the importance of offering services to people who are really in need, which is one of the things I really like about what we can do here at La Salle,” said Goldbacher.

Some factors that contribute to obesity include: decreases in physical activity, miseducation about the severity of obesity, lack of access to healthy foods and portion sizes. Portion sizes have increased over the years, so people are used to eating much more food than their great-grandparents did way back when, for example. “Portion sizes have changed dramatically over time. For an extra ten cents you can triple the value of the meal,” said Goldbacher.

According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, obesity emerges because “genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.” While genetics do not directly cause obesity, they are a factor for placing an individual at a greater risk for developing it. Goldbacher explained “Environmental factors are going to make it even more difficult for a person to have a healthy weight. If a person has a history of family obesity, they themselves will have a higher risk. That coupled with living in a food desert makes it even more problematic.”

These factors have contributed to obesity all over America, even right here in La Salle’s own neighborhood. Goldbacher and other clinical psychologists are working to help treat individuals with obesity through their Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment program. “There’s a lot of research supporting this type of treatment,” Goldbacher said.

The treatment involves six steps: self-monitoring, goal setting, problem solving, stimulus control, coping and relapse prevention. The program focuses on paying close attention to the foods that you are consuming. “When we’re not paying attention to eating, you may eat more unhealthy foods,” said Goldbacher.

By assisting residents in the surrounding neighborhood with obesity education and programs to target obesity, La Salle is aiming to decrease obesity and increase healthy lifestyles.

LGU Students Help Corinthian Baptist Church

Corinthian Baptist Church

The LGU capstone course is designed to integrate students into various volunteer-work positions in the surrounding area of La Salle University. Karla Fernandez and Cody Swan are the two students assigned to work with the Corinthian Baptist Church.

“One of the themes of the introductory and capstone courses is asset-based service. Hence, this semester we are volunteering at local faith-based institutions,” said Swan.

They have not been able to begin their volunteering yet, but have had an opportunity to attend a Sunday service. Hernandez and Swan are embracing this opportunity and look forward to working with the church in order to make a positive impact on its community.

Closer view of stained glass window.

“As we read comprehensive literature and primary documents and speeches relating to activist liberation theology, we are aiming to strengthen ties with these institutions in addition to helping them become more active and far reaching in their respective missions,” said Swan.

Corinthian Baptist Church is located about a mile from La Salle’s campus. It was established in 1900. Reverend Ronald K Hill became the pastor two years ago after the previous pastor retired from his 33 years of service at Corinthian Baptist.

View from the sidewalk.

Their covenant states:

View from across the street. Unfortunately, there are poles and wires blocking the church.

“A covenant is an agreement between two parties. At Corinthian, we have a covenant with God that affirms us as a people. We the members of the Body of Christ, give ourselves totally in worship to you O Lord. We want to hear from you, embrace you, and know you, that we may complete your will for our lives. We seek to be in your presence, so we can have a Christ-centered approach to living. Therefore, we are becoming empowered disciples, confident and capable in everything we do for the Kingdom of God.”

To learn more, visit their website.

All photos were taken with an iPhone 6.

Corinthian Baptist Hosts Black History Month Celebration.

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The red front door.

The Exploring Nutrition Project Fights Philadelphia Hunger

Food insufficiency is a severe issue that impacts nearly every community in Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia alone, there are nearly 400,000 people living in poverty.

To combat this issue, the Exploring Nutrition Project (ENP) was started to address hunger needs within the surrounding community of La Salle University. ENP operates under the following mission:

   Exploring Nutrition aims 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.  

Dr. Marjie Allen, chair of Integrative Studies, discussed the ways in which ENP addresses health and nutrition. About four years ago, the La Salle faculty came together and wanted to pool La Salle’s resources to help the community.

“We wanted to give La Salle an identification as caring about hunger and that was the beginning of Exploring Nutrition,” said Allen.

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The Fresh Grocer. Photo Credit: Remington Group

The first issue neighborhood residents faced was lack of access to a grocery store. Many residents had to take public transportation or walk to grocery stores and then transport their heavy groceries back to their homes. La Salle donated the land that Fresh Grocer was built on, which fulfilled the need of a closer grocery store for the community, but it did not alleviate the hunger issues.

“Fresh produce is extremely expensive. The average family income in our neighborhood is $24,000,” said Allen.

A healthy diet consists of three to five cups of vegetables per day; however, many people in the community cannot afford to purchase produce regularly. ENP holds an Easter produce drive to provide free produce and nutritional education to the community to reinforce how important it is to eat fresh produce. The produce drive strives to reach people who are in the most need; however, it is difficult for ENP to know who needs food the most. The project partners with local faith-based centers because people know and trust their own religious centers.

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Corinthian Baptist Church: One of the many centers that offers food to those in need.

Religious centers in Philadelphia serve as wonderful resources for those suffering from hunger. Nearly 100 churches in Philadelphia offer food assistance. These centers serve as safe, judgment-free zones where people in need can come together for a hot meal, a bag of canned goods or even just a cup of coffee.

The Exploring Nutrition Project and countless religious centers are working to help relieve Philadelphians of their hunger.