“This is an asset to the neighborhood.” Joe Brown, a local resident in the La Salle community, stated when he was interviewed about fresh grocer. “This is one of the best things La Salle has done for the community.”
Fresh Grocer is part of an initiative, Exploring Nutrition, that focuses on increasing the access to food in the area surrounding La Salle that was previously a food desert. Dr. Allen, one of the founders of Exploring Nutrition said, “Before Fresh Grocer was built, the La Salle community was a food desert. There was essentially no access to supermarkets.”
One effort Exploring Nutrition has done in partnership with Fresh Grocer to help local food pantries so that people in the community who are not as close to Fresh Grocer can have access to food is holding an annual Easter Food Drive. This food drive is also helped by LGU, Leadership and Global Understanding, students at La Salle University. With the Easter Food Drive, students help package and deliver food that is donated by Fresh Grocer to food pantries.
One of the food pantries that La Salle is working with through Exploring Nutrition is the Canaan Family Life Center. The Family Life Center works in association with the Canaan Baptist Church, but it is a separate entity. Their mission is to provide the people of Germantown with the services and resources necessary for a quality life. They offer services such as counseling, education, job training, incarceration re-entry assistance, food and clothing, and housing assistance.
One of the leaders of the Canaan Family Life Center is Peggy Sims. Sims founded Sisters Returning Home in 2007 after working with women in prison. By working with these women, she learned that there was a specified need for women in prison because their special needs were not being met and they had fewer resources than most prisons for men and she is now working at the Canaan Family Life Center.
Kellsey Turner, one of the LGU students at La Salle assigned to work at the Canaan Family Life Center stated, “Peggy is a passionate woman. She loves helping others and she loves her work. A member of the Canaan Baptist Church who attends regularly, Peggy is an inspiration and a joy to work with.”
LGU is not the only group that works with Exploring Nutrition though, many groups on campus work closely with Exploring Nutrition in efforts to help the community and to show the community members that La Salle does care and is doing everything they can in order to help.
One of the groups besides LGU that is working with Exploring Nutrition is Eco. ECO is helping the community by starting a community garden. One of their hopes for the community garden is that the people of the community will be more likely to value the healthy food that is offered in both the garden and the local Fresh Grocer as well as enjoy the beauty of the flowers that are also planted there. One of the efforts ECO has made along with Exploring Nutrition was food mapping, which allows community members to locate local food assets. They have created maps similar to the one seen below.
The need for food mapping is evident in areas similar to the area around La Salle and food desert areas so community members can locate the nearest places for them to get fresh healthy food. If community members have more access to fresh healthy food, hopefully we can start witnessing a decrease in plate waste.
Plate waste is a huge issue in not just food desert communities, but across America in general. There has been an increase in plate waste in recent decades, but hopefully as we start to see a decrease in food deserts, we can see a decrease in the plate waste trend as well.
For a better idea of how much food is really wasted:
Plate waste is not the only area in which these food desert communities have trouble in. Many food desert communities also have problems with disordered eating, especially when they do not have access to fresh food and are only able to access processed food or even fast food.
Dr. Edie Goldbacher, an assistant professor at La Salle University, who has performed research on disordered eating, recently stated that “Between 1990 and 2010 obesity trends have seen over a 10% increase.”
The work that La Salle is performing in the community is important especially due to the poverty rates in Philadelphia. The area that La Salle is in can be considered an area that is in poverty. By working to have a food market that is local to both students, faculty, and community members, this area is no longer a food desert. Brown stated, “I think if you got rid of this market here, I think this neighborhood would lose something.”
La Salle made a great decision by choosing Fresh Grocer as the local food market as well because they are so willing to donate time and resources to the neighborhood in order to help those who truly need it.