Exploring Nutrition Tackles the Tough Questions

America the beautiful, or America the obese? With obesity rates on the rise and healthy foods becoming inaccessible or unaffordable for many, the nation is faced with the troubling question of how to make its people healthier.

Source: oceansharing.com

Source: oceansharing.com

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that over one-third of adults are weighing in at the obese level, it is time to take action. Here at La Salle University, the Exploring Nutrition project has established itself in order to look at the surrounding community and explore the questions of obesity for itself.

Tom Wingert, the Project Manager for the La Salle’s Exploring Nutrition, saw the issues of “food insecurity” and poor nutrition in the area and decided to take matters into his own hands.

“It’s an expression of frustration,” Wingert said about the project.

Wingert explains that though there is so much research on the topic of poor nutrition and obesity in urban areas, the problem still persists. Though the introduction of The Fresh Grocer into the neighborhood in 2009 took the status of “food desert” away from the immediate area, it did not fix all nutritional issues.

Since it’s introduction, The Fresh Grocer has done its best to not only be a place to get hot food and healthy produce, but also strives to be a different type of grocery store in their extension into the community.

The Exploring Nutrition program, headed by Wingert, realizes that food alone is not enough and aims to team La Salle University with The Fresh Grocer and other community institutions in order to put an end to hunger and poor nutrition in the area.

“Instead of just feeding hunger people, we’re feeding hungry people good food,” Wingert said.

The Exploring Nutrition project is starting from scratch in order to find new answers and possibilities for this persisting issue. The project includes over 65 faculty and staff on board as well as partnerships with online journalism, market research, and digital art students. Though the project is still in its early stages of development, Wingert hopes it will help people in the area make better health choices.

“We’re not exactly sure how we’re going to change things, but we know people do want to change,” Wingert said.

The problem of obesity and poor nutrition is not something specific to La Salle University neighborhood; it is a nation-wide issue. According to the Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Household Health Survey, one in five adults (22.8%) eat just one serving of fruits or vegetables each day. In many cases, adults in the SEPA areas have difficulty accessing fresh produce or cannot afford them.

“You can’t have access without affordability,” Jule Anne Hestenburg, an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at La Salle University, said.

Hestenburg is one of many people working on the Exploring Nutrition project. Hestenburg’s main goal in the project is to educate. Although no formal research has been conducted, exploratory research has guided Hestenburg to believe that change is necessary.

“The big dilemma is the lower you go in socioeconomic levels, the more obesity there is,” Hestenburg said.

And this is the case all across the country. According to A Place at the Table, an investigative documentary by the creators of Food, Inc., 50 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. Furthermore, since 1980 the prices of fruits and vegetables have gone up by 40 percent, and conversely food prices have gone down by 40 percent.

Hestenburg believes that projects like La Salle’s Exploring Nutrition or Philadelphia’s SHARE Food Program are the best solutions to fixing these issues.

“We’re not going to see the government get more involved in this,” Hestenburg said.

According to an article entitled The economics of obesity: dietary energy density and energy cost by Adam Drewnowski and Nicole Darmon, the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the United State are found among lower-income groups. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that more than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese. When comparing the national averages of obesity to this neighborhood’s, the community mostly reflects most NIDDK averages.


[All data taken from the NIDDK and the Community Health Data Base]

The Exploring Nutrition project aims to tackle the link between obesity in the area by finding a way to make healthy food not only affordable, but also accessible through educational programs such as Nutrition Links.

The program has also recently reached out to community institutions to help coordinate Easter food drives. One of the institutions was the Philippian Baptist Church located at 5801 N. Broad Street.

The future of the Exploring Nutrition project is still unknown, but working toward a healthier neighborhood is its prerogative. The university will contribute fresh ideas and new ways to explore these persisting issues in order to produce changes in the neighborhood.


Stopping Hunger One Food Drive at a Time…

“… the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” -Norman Borlaug

The people living in the neighborhood surrounding N. Broad Street in Philadelphia are hungry, and the folks at the Philippian Baptist Church know that better than anyone.

Pastor Edward Perrine and members of his congregation hold a monthly food drive at the church, but with recent cutbacks to their supplies, they wonder if it’s going to be enough to keep food on the plates of their neighbors.

During the month of March, La Salle’s Explore Nutrition project teamed up with the church to supply food ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to canned goods to the neighborhood surrounding the church.

A Place at the Table

This could be the generation to “live sicker and die younger” than its predecessors.

That is one of the many messages the investigative documentary, A Place at the Table, is sending its audience.


From the creators of Food, Inc., A Place at the Table takes a human look at the real problem of hunger and poverty in the United States. The documentary follows families and individuals all over the country who constantly struggle to feed themselves and their children proper, nutritional food.

According to the film, 50 million Americans suffer from what is known as “food insecurity”.  In other words, these people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

But this isn’t the typical image of hunger that we’re used to seeing.

In the United States, hunger and obesity go hand-in-hand. A shortage of food isn’t he reason for hunger; it is instead because of poverty.

Since 1980, the prices of fruits and vegetables have gone up 40 percent. Conversely, processed food prices have gone down by 40 percent.

To further the problem, the prevalence of “food deserts” in urban areas makes healthy foods unavailable. For 23.5 million Americans, the chips, donuts, and sodas served at the local Mom-and-Pop Shops are the only food options.

Source: filmmakermagazine.com

Source: filmmakermagazine.com

So who will help with this alarming issue?

According to A Place at the Table, it won’t be the government.

With the lack of reimbursement for school lunches and the underfunding of programs to keep hunger at bay, the issue at hand is just getting worse.

The question of why hunger in this country exists has nothing to do with food shortage; we instead have to ask why poverty exists.

A Place at the Table asks the viewer, and the population in general, to wake up and see this issue for what it is. These people do exist. They are hungry. Food should be a right, not a privilege.

The Scary Truth Behind Obesity

Source: naturalhealth365.com

Source: naturalhealth365.com

We love it, we need it, but we apparently don’t know how to properly eat it. Americans have a complex, sometimes dangerous, relationship with food. The hot button issue of health and nutrition is receiving more and more attention as obesity in the United States continues to grow at an alarming rate, but the question of how to fix this issue still remains.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), an alarming 33.1 percent of people are overweight and 35.7 percent are obese nationally. To see how obesity in America has been on the rise, The Journal of the American Medical Association traced the trends in obesity. In 1962, 46 percent of Americans were considered overweight, obese, or extremely obese. Compare that to 2010’s rate of 75 percent and we can see the dramatic and alarming rise in obesity.

Here in Pennsylvania, we are ranked as the 20th fattest state in the country, as stated in a study in “F As In Fat: How Obesity Threatens Our Future”. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, if there is no nutritional change in the American diet, Pennsylvania could be facing a 57 percent obesity rate by 2030.

Source: hartford.edu

Source: hartford.edu

The issue of obesity raises even more concern in the Neighborhood Health and Nutrition Project (NHNP) boundaries, which is a predominantly African-American area. According to the NIDDK, 76.7 percent of African-Americans nationally are considered overweight or obese.

The danger? Obesity is linked to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and multiple other health problems.

So how do we fix this problem?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it comes down to an understanding of the food groups and including a variety of healthy foods in your diet. That all sounds good, but what about those of us who don’t want to sacrifice our favorite foods and don’t have the cash flow for the expensive, organic foods?

Source: MyPyramid.gov

Source: MyPyramid.gov

Well, the guys over at Greatist say eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. And if it’s taste you’re worried about, head over to Roost to get healthy recipes for some of your favorites (even cheesecake). If you’re looking for healthy alternatives to your favorite foods, Sodium Girl might have just what you’re looking for.

Source: endangeredfeces.org

Source: endangeredfeces.org

Taking the journey towards healthier eating may not be as terrifying as we all think. So put down the burger and pick up some kale as we work to make America a healthier place.