Louise Hill sits in the kitchen at St. Anthanasius Parish. Her petite figure sits up over the dining table as she explains the impact the Easter food drive has on the community she lives in. “I think it’s important, because there’s a lot of people who are out of work, food stamps have been cut, people really need the food. So it’s important that we try to come out and help other people who are in need.”
Hill stutters for a moment, tears welling up in her eyes. “And it’s work, but it’s fun. You get to hear different stories. Sometimes the people come in, and we only serve what we get in. I really think it’s a good thing that we can serve the community… there is so many people. I know we are not the poorest, but there is so many people that are in need. And it makes you feel good.”
Fresh Grocer teamed up with La Salle University’s Exploring Nutrition initiative to deliver food for Easter food drives to churches such as St. Anthanasius, which is located at 2050 E Walnut Lane. Hill expressed the significance of having a grocery store that is willing to help the people in its community, and how helpful it is.
The food was delivered for the food pantry to open at 2:00 PM. Within ten minutes, the food was gone.
The Germantown community was once considered a food desert. Until grocery stores such as Fresh Grocer and Bottom Dollar Foods was established along Chew Avenue, there was very limited access to fresh produce in the community.
Walking into a “Deli Grocery” corner store, I wonder how much fresh “grocery” supplies are inside. Lining the two aisles inside are shelves filled with canned goods and processed foods. The only fresh produce to be seen are the limited amounts of tomatoes and lettuce behind the deli counter in the back, and a bin of potatoes hidden in a corner of the store.
According to Dr. Henstenburg, Director of the Didactic Program in Nutrition at La Salle, food insecurity is a crucial issue in areas such as Germantown.
“The definition involves people having physical and economic status to food… whether or not you can bring enough food into the house to feed your family comfortably and in a culturally appropriate way,” said Henstenburg.
The food drive is a step in the right direction. Barbara Roberts, director of Family and Social Services, explained the struggles people face in a diverse neighborhood such as Germantown. Roberts stated that the neighborhood is mixed- senior citizens, people who receive food stamps, working mother’s who are ineligible for food stamps, single middle-aged men who are unemployed. The food pantries at churches save them by allowing people to come in and pick up bags of food.
Roberts said the food pantry provides dry goods, canned goods, and meat. “We aren’t able to get and give out fresh food. When Fresh Grocer called and asked if we wanted to be involved [with the food drive], we jumped on it because of how successful it was last year,” said Roberts.
According to Community Health Database, people who live in the 19138 and 19141 area codes of Philadelphia are not getting enough access to fruits and vegetables. Sixty-one percent of citizens in the neighborhood eat 0-2 servings of fruits and vegetables.
“In my personal opinion as a nutritionist, this is a big problem,” said Henstenburg. “We are not doing enough for people, they don’t know how to eat; the fact of the matter is, there are some people who are interested no doubt, but it’s one person at a time learning this stuff. It takes a lot of energy to eat right.”
This lack of access to proper nutritious food in the neighborhood leads to the issues involving obesity and overall health. “Genetics loads the gun, Environment pulls the trigger,” said Dr. Dr. Edie Goldbacher, a professor of psychology at La Salle University. Goldbacher’s research interests have focused on weight- and eating-related concerns. In particular, she is interested in the construct of emotional eating and its association with weight change and psychological well-being.
How has the community provided feedback for food drives through St. Anthanasius?
“It’s a big help, they say. They’re pretty appreciative. One year we did Thanksgiving baskets, and it helped one family. The woman who came in really appreciated it- her job had closed, and her benefits from unemployment hadn’t started yet. She was thankful for that, because they would be able to have a good dinner.”
The food drives during the holidays indicate the need in Germantown. With limited options and lower class families in the area, the Exploring Nutrition project is continuing to find ways to bring fresh food to the neighborhood, and teach people the importance of proper nutrition.
“It’s hard to decrease caloric intake when you are constantly surrounded by these types of foods,” said Goldbacher. It’s not really about willpower it’s about so many other factors: mindless eating, not having the time, not having the resources. So part of what we do is help people make different choices and make the most of the environment in which they are presented.”
Here is a video following the Exploring Nutrition project efforts to bring fresh produce to the Germantown community.