Giving Back to the Community Face to Face

Sheila Nesmith is happy if she is able to eat at least one meal a day. A resident of Germantown who was born without fingers on each hand deals with the daily struggle to cook every day. Sugar Moore, on the other hand, scarfs down whatever food she sees due to the fact that she is homeless. These citizens are just a few of the many people throughout the country dealing with food insecurity and hunger.

These residents attend Face to Face to receive a home cooked meal when they can. Located at 109 East Price Street in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Face to Face is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of the community. Their main focus is to meet basic human needs and reduce the suffer of hunger. With their motto “hospitality, mutuality, and transformation,” Face to Face thinks of everyone as equals and should be treated as such. The program serves around 500 meals every Friday through Monday.

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Here is the front entrance to Face to Face, located at 109 E. Price Street in Germantown.

The services provided at the organization have greatly expanded from the soup kitchen it was founded as decades ago. Today, one cannot 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. 

I took a look at what Face to Face really does and produced this slideshow of pictures from the outside and inside the kitchen and dining halls of the organization.

Executive Director at Face to Face, Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, has seen those who walk through the doors experiencing hunger. For that reason, she believes every person, no matter who they are, deserves the same respect as someone who has a nice meal on their table every day. “There’s nothing about privilege. It’s really about what we have to do for one another as human beings,” she says, “The day that we can say that every mean served here at Face to Face is a meal that any one of us would be happy to serve to our families and to our friends, we will know we have achieved our goal.”

Here is a compelling video my group and I took of the few people at Face to Face and Meeks-Hank along with their thoughts on food security in the community:

Despite their unique and compelling stories, everyone we spoke to, including Meeks-Hank, supported the La Salle University partnering with the organization in an effort to provide healthy meals to the community and surrounding areas of Olney. Meeks-Hank was excited to join the partnership after she was contacted by one of the main figures, Tom Wingert, of the Exploring Nutrition project at the university.

There were also some other experts that came to discuss the topic of food security to our class of student online journalists. Professor Julie Ann Henstenberg who is head of the nutrition program at La Salle, discusses her idea of people she refers to as “positive deviants.” She says it is an anthropological perspective that looks at people who have limited resources, but live in the neighborhood and have positive outcomes from buying fruits and vegetables. Her goal, in a sense, is to reach out to those people to see how they achieve success to a healthy lifestyle. “I want to know how they do it, what resources they use, what their beliefs are, what their knowledge is, then once I figured that out I want to be able to take that and distribute that to the knowledge of the neighborhood,” said Henstenberg. Here is that topic Henstenberg discussed in the first minute of this video:

In a more broader form of research, the World Food Summit of 1996, a program linked to the World Health Organization, defined food security being apparent “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” The program says food security is built on three pillars: Food availability, food access, and food use. There are many arguments people in North Philadelphia and around the world can address, but here are a couple main points the Food Summit lists:

  • There is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately; the problem is distribution.
  • Future food needs can – or cannot – be met by current levels of production.
  • National food security is paramount – or no longer necessary because of global trade.
  • Globalization may – or may not – lead to the persistence of food insecurity and poverty in rural communities.

In another study about food insecurity by the United States Department of Agriculture, 50.1 million people lived in food insecure households– 12.1 million were adults, 8.6 million were children. With that being said, the households with the highest food insecurity rates of 20.6 percent were the households with children. These numbers are displayed visually in a graph below:

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Mission Statement: How will we get to where we’re going?

Up until now, La Salle’s Explorer Nutrition, formally known as the Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project, has aimed at improving lifestyles and the diets of community members in the surrounding areas near the university’s campus.

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A group of us are heading to Face to Face, a non-profit organization, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Face to Face offers healthy meals to those who are in desperate need.This organization has been contacted by the Explore Nutrition project in an effort to help donate fresh and healthy foods for meals served to over hundreds of people on a weekly basis.

Here is a shared copy of our reporting plan, who we plan to interview, and our plan to create a video package of Face to Face and their efforts:

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” Movie Review

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Fifty million people in the United States along with one in four children do not know where their next meal will come from. One out of every two children, in particular, will need food assistance at some point. This documentary, A Place at the Table, gives a general overview of the issue by digging deep into the lives of these Americans who suffer to put food on the table every day.

Whenever I think about the reasons why Americans are going hungry, I right away think it is because there is a shortage of food. That is completely wrong. It is because of poverty. A lot of people in this country are forced to buy processed foods that are high in calories simply because they are cheaper. For example, three dollars worth of food can either get you some grapes, broccoli, and orange juice that equal 312 calories or packs of ramen noodles, two liters of soda, and a bag of chips at 3,767 calories. Of course we want to be able to purchase the healthier selection, but it is a growing struggle now-a-days.

The directors, Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, came up with the idea for this documentary after Lori mentored a young girl who dealt with food-insecurity. Kristi and Lori knew they had to team up and make others aware of the issue by filming real people with these devastating, life-long consequences. Take Part is an organization the documentary is apart of in a sense that it is a leading source of relevant news that shapes our lives. The organization’s mission is “To inspire and accelerate social change by connecting content to social action,” this means taking action.

The film is accurate after viewing real people being interviewed, but what do others think about the issue? In this article by the Nation “This Week in Poverty: ‘A Place at the Table’ and American Winter'” the writer Greg Kaufmann says, “This is happening in the richest country in the world, and the problem is only getting worse. Under President Reagan there were 20 million Americans living with food insecurity. We’re well over double that figure now.”

Overall, the film is very intriguing and well put together. The images are capturing and the the people in it are even more captivating. The sight of a fifth grader named Rosie in a classroom not being able to focus because she is so hungry is so painful to even think about. When talking about her teacher she said, “Sometimes when I look at her, I envision her as a banana. And everybody in the class is apples and oranges.”

Dr. John Cook, a research scientist and principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, is an expert on the effects of food insecurity on children. He says in this article from Take Part “The Hidden Crisis in America’s Classrooms” by Steve Holt, that hunger’s effect starts can decrease a child’s performance in school, which is why improving school lunches is vital.

The understanding of this issue and film all together, can help us understand the mission of the NHNP. This film can help those in the Olney area of North Philadelphia improve their eating habits one day at a time by seeing those who struggle, unfortunately. Personally, I wish to see big improvements in the project. After viewing A Place at the Table, I believe we as a community have the power to make changes. The film itself is very strong, but the one negative draw back is that some scenes were lengthy, that’s just about it. Other than that, I would definitely recommend it to friends, family, and classmates. This is an issue everyone should be aware of, not just those who are living this lifestyle every day.

Thoughts in the Neighborhood

I went around the streets of La Salle to see what those in the neighborhood had to say about the food options available to them, what they eat on a daily basis, and what changes they wish to see in the area.

Healthy Eating

I love a good cheesesteak as I’m sure many others do too, but a lot of times we forget how crucial our fatty food intake is to our health. A poor diet can lead to an energy imbalance and obvious risks for obesity, but why is this so important?

Healthy eating can prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and can reduce the risk for many diseases including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. We live in a country that relies on fast food when we’re on the go, but these foods do not include the nutrition intake needed for us as human beings throughout the day. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), U.S. adolescents today do not meet the recommendations for 2 1/2 cups to 6 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables, two to three ounces of whole grains, or 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium each day. Sugar-sweetened beverages are also an issue with eating habits today. Drinking a can of soda is equivalent to eating two candy bars believe it or not. Adolescents are drinking 14-22 ounces of soda per day instead of the better option of milk. Water also helps with weight loss and is a healthy alternative to such sugary drinks. 

Food Network’s “Healthy Eat” page offers a lot of great low-calorie recipes for those comfort foods you enjoy but know you’re not supposed to have. In 500 calories or less, this blog offers recipes for foods such as lasagna, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, chicken parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, chili, and even double chocolate brownies. So maybe you don’t want to give up sweets completely, but there is a way to cut back and eat smarter. 

Here’s an interesting article from Philly.com that I found on how sleep effects our diet just as much as the food we consume. As much as we think fruits and vegetables make for a healthy living, getting enough sleep comes first.

Urban Food

On Friday, I took a drive around the boundary of La Salle’s campus to check out the different food options available. First, I found a small food market called “A & J’s” right off the corner of Wister and Devon Street. Image

They offered a variety of boxed and canned foods including rice, cereal and juices that were all in the same aisle next to each other, unlike most grocery stores I’ve been to. One unique thing I found about this place was that they offered cooked-to-order breakfast sandwiches and hoagies. There was a full menu above a window with a grill in the back. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take a picture because the workers did not want their property publicly displayed, so I respected their wishes. (710 x 533 pixels)Image

Next, I went down a couple more blocks and stopped at the Fresh Grocer in the Shoppes at La Salle. Many students, including myself, purchase their groceries and food supplies from here because it is so conveniently located right off La Salle’s campus. There is a much greater selection of food including a deli, bakery, pizzas/pastas, and sushi section. (710 x 533 pixels)Image

One section that caught my eye was the International food aisle. Here you will find different salad dressings, rices, sauces, spices and boxed foods from countries around the world. (710 x 947 pixels)Image

My last and final stop was the Explorer’s Den located across from the La Salle Apartments. This take-out restaurant is known for their steaks, pizzas, and wraps. They also sell a variety of burgers, strombolis, wings, and hoagies. Not the healthiest of foods, but definitely a great place for college students to order out. One thing I like is that students are able to use their La Salle Gold Card to make a purchase, so naturally I stopped in to order a grilled chicken caesar wrap after I snapped this picture. (710 x 533 pixels)

All pictures were taken with a Nikon Cool Pix camera with 12.0 megapixels, a 4X wide optical zoom, 2.7 inch LCD, 4.9-19.6 mm, 1 : 3.2 – 5.9