La Salle University using brotherly love to fight hunger in Philadelphia

Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love.

A diverse, dynamic and amazing city to live in. It’s the city of firsts – first birthplace of America, first local daily newspaper, America’s first zoo, first hospital and many more things that make Philadelphia unique.

Despite being at the forefront for some of the most important historical references, Philadelphia is also known for a lot of bad.

One of the biggest issues in Philadelphia is the amount of hunger in the majority of the city’s communities. Much of this is accompanied by the poverty rate in Pennsylvania as a whole, which is almost at a scary 12.5 million people according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. Philadelphia is among the top 10 cities in America where people do not have enough food. Fighting hunger, giving people a healthier way to live and promoting good eating habits are just some of the ways La Salle University and the Exploring Nutrition Project is attempting to combat hunger.

Students like Molly Mahon have been involved in trying to fight hunger their first days at La Salle, which is why she consistently helps out at Pheed Philadelphia, a soup kitchen program at La Salle University aimed to fighting hunger in the local community.

“I think it’s really good to step off this campus and see what’s going on, like, two miles down the road someone is hungry right now,” Mahon said. “They probably don’t have a meal for tomorrow, either, so to step out of my reality and constantly be reminded of that is something that’s always been interesting to me.”

Pheed Philadelphia students making sandwiches on the union patio.

Pheed Philadelphia students making sandwiches on the union patio.

The reason volunteer groups like Pheed Philadelphia and La Salle’s LGU Program are important is that they help the active area, especially around La Salle University, with getting food and having a real living.

Parts of Philadelphia, especially around La Salle, are considered ‘food deserts’ where there is unavailability and lack of fresh food at local, neighborhood grocery stores.

“Fresh produce is extremely expensive,”  said Dr. Marjie Allen, Chairwoman of Integrative studies at La Salle University. “The average family income in our neighborhood is $24,000.”

Below is a look at the food desert around La Salle and what programs such as the Exploring Nutrition Project, LGU and Pheed Philadelphia look to aid with their volunteering.

“I think that the LGU program is brilliant because it raises essential humanistic questions,” said Cody Swan, a student in the program. “By looking through the lenses of various disciplines, Dr. Allen teaches us how to conceptualize the vast interconnectedness of various socioeconomic, political and moral issues.”

According to the South Eastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, almost half of the area around La Salle over the age of 18 do not exercise regularly and have body mass indexes (BMIs) of 30 or over, which is considered obese.

Students in the LGU Program set up their annual Easter Food Drive at the Fresh Grocer at the Shoppes at La Salle. The program was capped by the students loading trucks and bagging food to help out the neighboring community, trying to feed them and give them something to look forward to with the coming weeks to enjoy a holiday.

Kellsey Turner (left) volunteered her time to help out those in need at the Easter Food Drive.

Kellsey Turner (left) volunteered her time to help out those in need at the Easter Food Drive.

But once these people get the food, the next issue is keeping healthy and keeping up with a healthy lifestyle to not be obese. Philadelphia is home to more than a million residents. The CDC conducted a study to see how healthy the city really is.

What they found were these interesting, yet scary statistics:

  • 67.9% of adults in the city and approximately 41% of youth aged 6-17 are overweight or obese.
  • Nearly 70% of youth in North Philadelphia, the majority of whom are black or Hispanic, are overweight or obese, which is nearly double the obesity and overweight rate for youth in the United States.
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption is a challenge for residents, with nearly 25% of youth and 30% of adults getting only one serving or less per day.
  • Approximately 25% of youth do not get sustained physical activity even once a week. In addition to obesity-prevention efforts aimed at the community’s entire population, certain initiatives target these high-risk groups.

These stats stand out for a majority of reasons. What stands out the most are the amount of people affected in North Philadelphia. If over 70 percent of youth are overweight, then they had to have gotten this from somewhere.

Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a psychology professor at La Salle, spoke to a class of students about her work with aiding men and women to healthier lifestyles. Her clinic tries to get these men and women healthier and making them realize that this obesity issue they are dealing with is not a bias and not just through genetics, like one may assume. She approaches the clinic trying to change lifestyles to better one another, hoping that they too will pass on their knowledge.

This is why La Salle is important to North Philadelphia. Their work in the community, especially with the Exploring Nutrition Project, Pheed Philadelphia and LGU program, to help fight hunger, create awareness, donate food and develop healthier lifestyles is important to changing the culture in the neighborhood. The university takes the term ‘brotherly love’ to the highest level.

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