My name is Anthony Fleet and I am a senior at La Salle University. This blog was created while I was taking an Online Journalism course in the spring of 2015. Throughout that semester, we covered a variety of topics dealing with food and nutrition (see posts below).
Since that semester has ended, I have continued to use this platform to publicly display projects in different types of media in order to diversify my skills as a multimedia journalist. My projects include video, audio, and written stories published online.
There have been several short television packages I’ve produced at La Salle University, which can be found on my YouTube page.
During this past summer, I attended the Clyde Hirt Journalism workshop. I covered the Hambeltonian, a major harness race that takes place at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Leading up to the race, I did a piece on a popular veteran of the sport for the Daily Racing Form.
This semester, I wrote a story about a unique parish located in North Philadelphia leading up to the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia.
I also created several graphics that contain quotes from Pope Francis regarding some controversial world issues The graphics piece also demonstrates my ability to write code for the web.
The people who live in the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding La Salle University have had to cope with a minimal supply of fresh, healthy and affordable food for a long time. They instead had to rely on perhaps cheaper, but much less healthier food options.
For example, when I had previously went out to speak to local residents about local food sources, people told me their favorite places to get food included takeout restaurants such as Wendy’s or Explorers Den. There are also a high number of other similar restaurants in the area that offer food that is inexpensive, but may not be particularly good for one’s health.
However, the problem is not just local; it is a state-wide issue. According to hungerbites.org, one in five households with children struggle with food hardship in Pennsylvania. 15 percent of Pennsylvanians are also food insecure, meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. The lack of money and other resources can be due to increases in the price of heating oil, gasoline and rents, which have consequently resulted in record numbers of individuals and families seeking food assistance during the last year.
For those who wonder why so many people are hungry, Rebecca Long, a coordinator for La Salle’s Pheed Philly program, believes inequality is to blame:
“It’s because of power. It’s inequalities and access to resources and opportunities… we have plenty of food here on [La Salle’s] campus to feed everyone five times over. But, in the city, if you don’t have resources or power, money… you can’t get food.”
That, of course, changed some in 2007 for local residents living around La Salle. A very nice resource, namely a Fresh Grocer supermarket, was built right down the street from La Salle’s main campus… and residents have since had easier access to healthier food options.
Before the Fresh Grocer was built, people relied more on unhealthier food such as fast food for nourishment. As a result, the percent of adults who live in these neighborhoods (designated as zip codes 19138 & 19141 on the chart) are much more likely to become obese once they turn 40 years old (see below). The chart compares people of those locations to the overall population in Southeastern Pa.
Members of the La Salle community began to notice the ongoing issues that immediately surrounded them. Thus, Exploring Nutritionwas born. Led by Dr. Marjorie Allen, who is the Chair of the Integrative Studies Department at La Salle, students and faculty have been able to raise funds and host events that helps feed hungry mouths healthy food.
One of the events includes Pheed Philadelphia, which was started in 2011. Students in this program work towards fighting hunger and poverty through active involvement in local soup kitchens, dining halls, and on-campus awareness programs.
Their marquee event happens around Easter time. 2015 marked Exploring Nutrition’s fifth annual Spring Food Drive. This year, La Salle partnered with The Fresh Grocer at La Salle to raise $4,000, producing approximately 4,500 pounds of fresh vegetables to give to those families in need. Recipients of the food are members of 11 different faith-based institutions from around the area (see map below).
The basic process of the food drive goes as follows:
First, all of the food gets delivered to the Fresh Grocer at La Salle.
Two, organizations from La Salle and the area travel to the Fresh Grocer to organize and bag all of the food. Participating organizations this year included La Salle LGU students, Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity at La Salle that is dedicated to service, children from Wagner Middle School, and the 35th District Townwatch. All of these organizations worked together to efficiently organize all of the food in only a few hours.
Three, the food gets packed then transported via a U-haul truck to the 11 institutions.
Four, once the food arrives at the institutions, people that work for the institutions plus local volunteers unload the truck and reorganize the bags of food, determining how many families need what amount of food.
Five, once the organization is complete, the food is transported by car by institution workers or affiliates to the families who need the food most. The video below provides coverage of the drive itself in addition to hearing participants perspectives on their experiences.
Everyone who participated genuinely felt good about their assistance. Everyone who spoke on the video realized the impact they are making. Over 800 families benefitted from the Spring Food Drive.
It wasn’t too long ago when most people have been almost completely deprived of access to fresh food. Because of the Fresh Grocer that now sits within the community, and because of the Spring Food Drive, people now have more access to a supply of fresh, healthy and affordable food.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines have been a cause for controversy across the United States… and it’s because of red meat. Specifically, in the Executive Summary on page four, lines 115-117 the guideline states, “… a healthy dietary pattern is… lower in red and processed meat.”
Not only is it unhealthy for people, it is also hazardous to the environment. Jule Anne Henstenburg, the Director of the Nutrition Program at La Salle University, provided a myriad of facts claiming why red meat could be unhealthy for the planet.
For example, Henstenburg said meat generates 18 percent of Greenhouse gases. To put that in perspective, 13 percent of Greenhouse gases comes from all of the world’s transportation. In addition, eating a burger is tied with the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. Since burgers come from cows, cows get fed soy and soy gets grown in the Amazon Rainforest, trees are cut down to make room for soy.
Of course, meat companies and its employees were outraged. Henstenburg pointed out a begrudged cattle producer, who commented on the guidelines. He said, “Todays beef supply is leaner than ever before with more than 30 cuts of beef recognized as lean by the governments own standards.” The anonymous commenter continued, “the Advisory Committees report is misleading and contradictory of the governments own data as it states Americans diets should be lower in red meat.”
Members of the meat industry defending themselves goes back as far as 1998, when Oprah was sued for creating a “lynch mob mentality” on an episode of her show back in 1995.
Despite the positive image cattle producers try to paint in the minds of Americans, organizations such as the Cancer Research Fund has found strong evidence that links red meat to a higher risk of cancer.
While it may be healthier to minimize red meat from your diet, it may be too difficult for people who mostly depend on it for a food resource.
La Salle University partnered with The Fresh Grocer of La Salle to help fund the 2015 Easter Food Drive. The drive helps feed families who do not have the means to consistently put food, especially healthy food, on the table. Here are some of the highlights of the event:
Obesity is a growing problem in America. Across the United States, the percent of people who are obese based off of their Body Mass Index (BMI) has increased from a general range of 10-14 percent in 1990 to a range of to 20-30 percent as recently as 2010.
Some people who study obesity point to nature, or the intertwining of an obese person’s genetics or biologic determinants. As of 2013, there have been seven “new” genes that are looked at to be the probable cause of obesity in humans. However, it is not these seven genes alone that are THE cause of obesity. Scientists believe this is just a small piece to a larger puzzle.
On the other hand, others believe it to be nurture, or the environmental impact that raises the likelihood of a person to be obese. Specifically, the abundance of high-caloric foods plus the decline of physically active lifestyles are two common things scientists point to.
Perhaps there is no one factor. Perhaps it is a combination of both nature and nurture.
In other words, a person with a family history of obesity COMBINED WITH a person living in a food desert, or an environment where there is little access to healthy food, may have a higher risk of developing weight difficulties.
“Genetics DO NOT cause obesity… there are very few situations where you have a specific gene, and if you have that gene then you check it and you say, ‘ok you’re definitely going to develop obesity.'”
As of now, there is still no direct correlation between obesity and its cause. Scientists continue to analyze both the nature and nurture aspects as obesity rates continues to grow, especially in America.
The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act attempts to encourage more donations by increasing the value of deductions concerning food-related “charitable contributions.” Thus, if taxpayers provide more food donations, they will be able to deduct more from their taxes. However, those who oppose the Act, fear it may simply be exploiting hunger, both at home and abroad, to give a tax cut to larger corporations.
Food waste in America is becoming a major issue that will only get worse before people start to realize it and try to solve the issue. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten. That is equivalent to 20 pounds of food per person every month.
This massive amount of food we throw in the trash also has an environmental and economic impact. Wasted food contributes 33 million tons of trash to landfills, where the wasted food decomposes and produces 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. There is also a huge amount of water wasted each year used to irrigate uneaten crops.
The monetary cost of food waste in the U.S. equals about $165 billion each year. $40 billion comes from household waste, and $750 million is spent on food just carelessly tossed in the trash, as opposed to industries tossing food that does not look visually appealing.
There are a number of ways to prevent food waste. Some ways include, shopping smarter – buying only the things you need, dishing out smaller serving sizes, eating leftovers, having a good freezer and ignoring expiration dates. The latter could be the most difficult. However, expiration dates signal a food’s peak quality, not that it will spoil that day.
To prevent food waste takes some attentiveness and desire to keep earth cleaner… and it takes a collective effort.
As a part of La Salle University’s Exploring Nutrition, I traveled around to La Salle’s surrounding communities to gauge local residents’ thoughts about their source(s) of food.
Specifically, I talked to several residents from Logan/Ogontz/Fern Rock, and another woman from the North Philadelphia area.
Ebony Northan of Logan told me she likes to eat at Relish, which is located on 7152 Ogontz Ave. in Philadelphia.
According to its site, Relish show-cases the finest in modern southern cuisine, the best in live jazz and a fantastic Saturday and Sunday Brunch. Its menu features feature selections like Southern Shrimp Scampi, Deviled “Cajun Shrimp” Eggs and Smothered Turkey Wings with Fresh Rosemary.
Other people noted going to take-out restaurants such as Wendy’s or Explorers Den, the latter of which is located directly down the street from La Salle’s main campus.
Northan continued to tell me about her desire to see farmer’s markets and butcher shops in the area for more access to fresh food. “[These places offer] fresh-cut meat… just a better selection of just what’s already cut up and served up for the serving size.”
As for food shopping, despite the fact a Fresh Grocer supermarket is located minutes from La Salle, Shop Rite was the overwhelming favorite for those I spoke to. The price of items was on everybody’s mind when they mentioned Shop Rite as their main source for groceries. Most of them said Shop Rite was cheaper than other supermarkets.
There are several Shop Rites littered around La Salle’s main campus, and people seem to be willing to travel a little bit further to save some money. For example, Justine, who lives on the 5700 block of N. 20th st., would rather travel 2 miles to the Shop Rite on Front and Olney, then go to the Fresh Grocer that sits less than a half-mile from her home.
Most of the people I talked to seemed to be critical of the food sources available to them. I believe this is due to the limited amount of options they have to choose from. People eventually get sick of eating the same things repeatedly. Exploring Nutrition needs to acknowledge their feelings, and start changing the attitudes of local residents by turning their criticisms into compliments.