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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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.

“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.