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.

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La Salle Students Pheed Philadelphia

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Pheed Volunteers

One in eight people go to sleep hungry each night in the United States. Philadelphia is ranked 8th among cities where Americans do not have enough food. Surprisingly, 60% of people asking for emergency food assistance are employed. However, their jobs do not pay enough for them to feed themselves or their families. To combat this growing issue, in 2011, students from La Salle University created Pheed Philadelphia, a group that volunteers at local food banks and soup kitchens to help feed those in need.

Becca Long and Molly Mahon are just two of the many students who participate in Pheed Philadelphia. Pheed Philadelphia goes to four soup kitchens each week: Face-to-Face, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, St. Francis Inn, and Blessed Sarnelli. Each kitchen operates differently. At Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, the men are given their food and move along without much interaction with the volunteers.

At the other three sites, there is a better sense of community. The volunteers serve those in need, but also take time to sit down and have real conversations with them. These conversations foster relationships among the students and homeless, which eliminates the power difference that can sometimes be associated with soup kitchens that operate solely on the “conveyor belt” style of serving.

Pheed realizes how important it is to make each person in need feel dignified, because after all, they’re human just like the rest of us. Long and Mahon agreed that speaking with the homeless is the best part of their volunteer work 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 into contact with. I learn so much more than I do when in the confines of my classroom,” said Mahon.

Pheed Philadelphia sends out volunteers four days per week. To learn more about Pheed or to get involved, visit their website.

Exploring Nutrition

Hello and welcome to Never Stop Exploring Nutrition. I’m Erin, and this blog will be focused on nutrition. Specifically, I will be working on La Salle’s Exploring Nutrition project. I will be adding new content weekly. Enjoy!