Hospitality, Mutuality, Transformation

It was a rainy Monday morning in Germantown. Several people were scattered throughout the large dining room at Face to Face; some congregated with friends and acquaintances at various tables, chatting and sipping on hot coffee, while others sat alone nibbling on crackers and other snacks packed in a brown bag that was given to them upon their arrival.

People come to Face to Face for a variety of reasons. Bruce Allen just wanted to sit and relax with his friends on this dreary morning. Sugar Moore, on the other hand, was scarfing down the breakfast bars and asking those around her if there was anything they were willing to share with her.

The services provided at the organization have greatly expanded from the soup kitchen it was founded as decades ago. Today, one can not only get a hot meal, but they can also obtain health screenings, legal and social services provided by trained professionals, take art classes, or even take shelter from the outside elements and enjoy a warm shower free of charge.

Face to Face is a perfect example of how the problem of inadequate health and nutrition is prevalent in many poor, urban communities across the United States. Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, executive director at Face to Face, has witnessed firsthand the issue of hunger and food insecurity in the area. I got a chance to talk to Meeks-Hank, who has seen firsthand the many people who have walked the halls of 109 Price St. and utilized the services. Most are regulars, she said; however, there are also many instances where she comes across unfamiliar faces as well.

Meeks-Hank jumped right on board when she was initially contacted by Tom Wingert of the “Exploring Nutrition” project at La Salle University. This new and upcoming program that will be officially launched this fall addresses the vast issue of health and nutrition in the urban areas. Below, you will find the specific area that the “Exploring Nutrition” project will cover, located within the blue line.

Face to Face is located on the outskirts of this area on 109 Price St.

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As outlined in earlier blog posts, there has been a lot of focus lately on the health attitudes and behaviors exhibited by people across the country, especially in the field of nutrition. The topic of health and nutrition has become an area of interest over the last decade or so. In the academic realm as well as the real world, people are beginning to realize the enormity of the consequences, health and otherwise, the foods they put in their body are having on them. In a world where fast food consumes more than 10% of the average adult’s diet, many are blowing the whistle and calling for a diet that is heavily reliant on fresh fruits and vegetables rather than greasy, fried, processed foods that are offered on almost every street corner in America. Everywhere you turn, there is information available for people who are aiming to improve their diet and lifestyle by eating more healthy foods. Whether it’s in a news feature on a local television station, an online blog post or nutrition article, or healthy recipe idea on Pinterest, the idea of adopting a healthier lifestyle has become a prevalent part of today’s society.

The statistics are proof enough that people could use a little more fruits and vegetables in their overall diet, especially in the poorer areas, as well as the area surrounding La Salle .

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This is where Face to Face and Exploring Nutrition are hoping to step in. Take a look at a feature I produced that takes a closer look at how the Exploring Nutrition project as well as various classes at La Salle are lending a helping hand:

By partnering with La Salle, Face to Face hopes to begin offering more healthy, nutritious meal options to their patrons. This, they hope, will be a first step in combating the problem of hunger, food insecurity, as well as obesity and negative health consequences that run rampant in the poverty-ridden sections of the city. Although these issues are deep seeded and have many culprits behind the root of the problem, it is the hope of Meeks-Hank as well as those in charge of Exploring Nutrition that by offering fresh, healthy alternatives, this will set a solid foundation necessary for people to begin living a better, fuller, more satisfying lifestyle.

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Coming “Face to Face” with Hunger in Germantown

The intersection of Germantown and Chelten Avenues is rarely short of hustle and bustle. Venture right around the corner on the 100 block of Price St., however, and a vastly different scene comes into view. Face to Face’s large outer facade is tucked into a quiet street lined with trees and residential homes. On a bright afternoon, a few patrons idled on the building’s front steps, conversing and catching up with one another after their weekly Saturday lunch. Take a closer look at what this organization is all about, and how the involvement of La Salle’s Explore Nutrition program is hoping to impact this neighborhood safe haven in a positive way.

Mission Statement: Where are We Going? How Will We Get There?

So far, the purpose of this blog was to examine how La Salle University’s “Explore Nutrition” project, formally known as the Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project, is helping the university’s surrounding community in their efforts to improve residents’ overall diet and lifestyle.

Face to Face is a not-for-profit organization located on 109 Price St. in the city’s Germantown section, about a five minute drive from La Salle’s main campus. Since its early beginnings as a soup kitchen in the mid 1980s, Face to Face has evolved into a place that focuses on serving not just those struggling to find a good meal, but also victims of homelessness, addiction, and abuse. In addition to the kitchen and dining room, the building also holds a health center and vicinity that hosts an after school program for local children as well as a summer camp.

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This organization has been contacted by the Explore Nutrition project in an effort to help them help others by donating fresh and healthy foods to be incorporated into the meals served to over hundreds of people on a weekly basis. With the already dismal state of the diet and nutrition of residents in this community, Explore Nutrition hopes that their involvement with Face to Face will serve to positively influence the many people who utilize this organization, offering healthy meals to those who desperately need them.

Throughout the duration of this project, there are a number or questions that will hopefully be answered: What exactly is the root of the problem of the sub-par health and nutrition in the surrounding La Salle community? What is being done to stem the tide of this growing epidemic? What is La Salle’s Explore Nutrition project doing to combat this problem, and how effective is it? We hope to discuss these questions with those who work with Face to Face, as well as frequent visitors to the program. In addition, we hope to consult with “experts” on the topic of nutrition, especially in the area surrounding La Salle. By getting up close and personal with Face to Face, we can hopefully discover the root of the problem of the declining state of the community’s eating habits and begin taking the necessary steps to solve it.

In order to complete this project, our group will work together to create an effective video package that accurately portrays the situation at hand and how this program is aiming to improve the nutritional habits of those in the community. Together, we will all take a turn interviewing workers and constituents of Face to Face, as well as taking photos and video. After collaborating with the material we gather along the way, Michea Bryant will work primarily with putting together the final video project, because of her background knowledge in editing. Our final project will include photos and video clips of the Face to Face headquarters on Price St, the meals being served and consumed by local residents, as well as the cooking and preparation of the food donated by the Fresh Grocer. There will also be audio playing throughout the video, telling the story and providing appropriate background information and context as needed.

The contact people listed for Face to Face are Marie McCabe, the Operations Manager (484.429.1300), as well as Director of Food Services Josh Skinner (215.837.3819). The anticipated time of these interviews will be approximately 15-20 minutes, and will focus on the following interview questions:

  • Describe the services offered at Face to Face
  • When did La Salle come into contact with you to become a part of the Explore Nutrition project?
  • Were there any doubts about partnering with the project?
  • How much of an impact is Explore Nutrition having on your organization?
  • What is the biggest change you’ve seen since partnering with the program?
  • What is the biggest nutritional  problem/issue you see with people who utilize your organization?
  • What do you believe is the root of the problem of low nutrition in La Salle’s surrounding community?
  • What is the most popular food item at the meals offered at Face to Face?
  • Are the people who utilize your services regular visitors? If so, what keeps them coming back?
  • Is there anything Explore Nutrition is not doing to help out that you would like them to begin doing in the future?

Depending on how willing they are, we also plan on interviewing the “customers” of Face to Face:

  • How often do you come here?
  • What is the biggest problem with obtaining meals for yourself and your family? (Financial, location, etc.?)
  • What would you like to see change in the food shopping process here in the community?
  • What would you like to see more of in terms of food provided in the meals, services provided by Face to Face, etc.?
  • What are your feelings regarding Explore Nutrition’s efforts to help out Face to Face?

If possible, we would also like to interview others involved with the “Explore Nutrition” project. Tom Wingert, the Project Manager of Explore Nutrition, as well as Jule Anne Henstenburg, the Director of La Salle’s Nutrition Program, will serve as our “experts” on the topic and can give us some good background information and context for our video.

Questions to ask Wingert:

  • What are the obstacles standing in the way of Explore Nutrition’s ability to provide optimum effectiveness in the community?
  • What is the ultimate goal of this project?

Ideally, our video would include video of the outside facade of the Face to Face building, as well as footage of the meals being served throughout the day to local residents. In addition, we think it would be helpful to have clips in the kitchen of the cooks preparing the food donated by the Fresh Grocer. By giving the audience a visual, it will be able to put a vivid pictures in their heads, hopefully bringing the intensity of the topic home and really getting the message across in an effective way.

“A Place at the Table”: A Frustrating Look at Hunger in America

Imagine trying to support yourself and your family on a paycheck of 120 dollars every two weeks. Imagine sitting in a classroom trying to listen to a lecture, but you are so hungry that the teacher is turning into a banana right before your very eyes. Imagine begging your children to fall asleep at night despite the fact that their stomachs are growling and they are wondering what it is they did wrong to deserve this terrible feeling.

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These scenarios were brought to life in Magnolia Picture’s A Place at the Table, which was released in select theaters around the country and made available everywhere On Demand March 1. The documentary chronicles the struggle many Americans face to put food on the table and the hunger epidemic’s negative impact on the nation since the turn of the 21st century.

One of the reviews on the film’s website quotes the Huffington Post saying this was, “a film that should make you furious”. And it did make me furious. When the movie ended and the credits began to roll, I could not help but feel a sense of frustration. Sitting in my suburban single home with a kitchen stocked with a variety of foods to satisfy my appetite at any time of the day or night, this movie opened my eyes to a life that so many people in this country are forced to live each and every day. And to make matters worse, despite the fact that there are efforts being made to stem the tide of this growing problem, the government seems to be doing very little to help. Not to mention that this problem was virtually eradicated back in the 1970s, yet when faced with the same issue in today’s society, we just can’t seem to get this monkey off our backs.

Fortunately, films like these are gaining a lot of attention in the media, and will hopefully raise the awareness that is needed to put an end to this problem for good. The movie features academics, intellectuals, and authors who put this idea in perspective for the audience. Even actor Jeff Bridges has a big role to play in the film. Aside from his famed career in Hollywood, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network and has the ambitious goal to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

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One other point that made me frustrated when watching the film was that when it ended, I felt as if there was this huge problem right here on our home soil, and yet, there was nothing I could do to help. To me personally, the film left me with no practical way for me to take action.

While it is true that by merely raising awareness for the issue of hunger in America, we are taking small yet necessary step towards a brighter future; however, once everyone knows about the problem, there needs to be a feasible and achievable means to this end.

“I’d Like to Ask the Audience”

Since the goal of La Salle’s Neighborbood Health and Nutrition Project is to improve the overall eating environment of the university’s surrounding community, it would make sense for readers to have an idea of the demographic makeup Logan, Ogontz, and Olney sections of Philadelphia.

I got a chance to talk with several people who live in the area and ask them their personal opinions about the food options here in the neighborhood. They graciously let me record our conversation; take a look below at what they had to say.

 

 

Health and Nutrition: A Trending Topic

Much like the rapidly increasing size of our nation’s citizens, the awareness of the declining state of our nation’s health and diet is increasing as well. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems that are in part caused by the food problem in the United States is costing us a great deal. This issue of not only hitting people hard, but also their wallets. This has sparked a nationwide movement, encouraging people to step away from the fast food counter and into places that sell healthier, fresher, better quality food.

With the rising popularity of Internet blogging, there are countless health and nutrition posts are raising awareness about this issue. Available to anyone with access to the Internet, new blogs are popping up daily, offering people advice as well as hope that they may be able to offset these pending health problems for themselves and their children.

Take a look at Mayo Clinic’s nutrition blog, which offers suggestions for improving your diet and overall lifestyle.

You do not have to be a doctor or have professional expertise on nutrition to blog about it (exhibit A). Many people will post in blogs chronicling their own experience in their quest to achieve a healthier diet. Step Away From the Cake is a more personal account of one blogger’s day by day diet and fitness journal, which include both high and low points alike. A lot of blogs like this exist today; they can attract many readers who can read these posts and think, “Hey, if this person can do it, so can I!”

There are also blogs that detail trends in the world of health and nutrition. This article from the Huffington Post discusses a study that shows older Americans are in worse overall health than the generation that precedes them.

Blogs like these can not only help people begin taking the necessary steps to live a healthy lifestyle, but they can also educate readers about just how to do so and how important it is.

There has been a gradual paradigm shift over the past decade or so in the way Americans are viewing food; people are becoming more aware of just what they are putting into their bodies, and how much of it is not good for them. The pressure is on for parents, teachers, and lawmakers to begin reevaluating their eating habits and creating an environment where their children can learn at an early age the incredible importance of eating healthy and nutritious foods.

What’s for Dinner?

The sun began to set on a Monday afternoon in Olney, causing the temperature to drop little by little with each passing minute. For residents living in this neighborhood surrounding La Salle University, this signaled the dinner hour’s fast approach. Although there are a variety of selection to choose from here, with cuisines from all around the world (Chinese, Mexican, Caribbean, Jamaican, Middle Eastern), as well as the more traditional pizza and french fries, the overall quality of this food is sub-par to say the least.

Take out and fast food have become the norm in urban areas , with local pizza shops on every corner and those famous golden arches lighting up the streets at night. It is evident that eating at these establishments more than a few times a week can pose serious health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Armed with my iPhone 4, which has a 5 megapixel camera and dimensions of 2.3 x 4.5 x 0.4 in. (59 x 115 x 9 mm), I drove around the neighborhood to get a sense of the food preparation, distribution, and retail in the area.

One of the first things I noticed is that there is a local grocery store on practically every street corner. Usually locally owned, it is a typical store where you can buy a variety of food, from as simple necessities of milk and bread to a wide array of ethnic foods. Tavarez Grocery is located on Chelten Ave. at Heiskell St.

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I was surprised to find that in addition to having fried foods cooked in a small kitchen located behind the glass partition separating the workers from the customers, there was actually a variety of what looked to be fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. After looking around for a few minutes, I concluded that many of the items were the same as those found in a larger supermarket and could surely be considered a go to place to gather ingredients to make a healthy, wholesome meal.
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This photo was taken at a McDonald’s  located on Chelten Ave. This fast food establishment has unfortunately become the norm for those especially in more urban, low income areas. Places like McDonald’s cater to many peoples’ needs for a quick, cheap meal.

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Finally, there are a great number of food trucks parked on curbsides across the area. This one was taken on Germantown Ave., which is located outside the boundaries of La Salle’s NHNP; however, there are still many much like this one located in the Olney area.

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Food trucks, like fast food places, offer convenience, allowing people to buy food on the go in the midst of their busy, hectic day. Although the menu features mainly greasy fried foods such as hamburgers and cheesesteaks, many other food trucks I’ve seen around the area offer fresh fruit and smoothies, which could serve as a healthy alternative.

By riding around the community for no more than an hour on that cold, late afternoon, I think it is safe to assume that none of the food establishments I found were worthy of raving, five star reviews. The quality of food selection is poor, leaving local residents with very few choices if they wanted to at least attempt to live a healthy lifestyle.