Nutrition for the City

Kirstin Roebuck

The growing issue of food insecurity—a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life has prompted nutritional science majors at Howard University to provide nutritional wellness education and services to city residents who are most in need.

From DC Central Kitchen to Horton’s Kids to the College of Nursing and Allied Health Science’s Food as Medicine Project—a one-year nutrition education study where students and program administrators provide hands-on, personalized food shopping experiences to residents in Wards 7 and 8—students are committed to increasing wellness in D.C. Five students share their stories.

Jordan Brown

Sophomore

Nutritional sciences major, chemistry minor

Sherman Oaks, California

Health disparities in the black community have become more evident as gentrification continues to take over D.C. neighborhoods. To help, I work on several projects that promote nutritional education and provide access to meals. Last year, I helped with the Food as Medicine program, where I took Ward 8 residents with chronic nutrition-related diseases on grocery store tours, teaching them how to select healthy food options.

I’m also working with a student group to start a Campus Kitchen that would use leftover cafeteria food to feed local communities in need. In another project, I represent the Department of Nutritional Sciences to bring health services and nutrition education to local homes for residents who are 65+ years of age. I also serve as a public health fellow at Good Food Markets, where we hold nutrition education events and cooking classes at local YMCA’s and public libraries around Ward 5. Howard has the resources to fight food insecurity among disadvantaged communities and I hope, that as students, we can improve health and wellness within the D.C. area.

Maya Rashad

Sophomore

Nutritional sciences major, chemistry minor

Memphis, Tennessee

This past semester, I volunteered at DC Central Kitchen, where I helped create fresh fruit and vegetable bundles for elementary and middle school students in D.C. I also had the chance to volunteer at So Others Might Eat to help serve lunch to poor and homeless residents in the area. These experiences opened my eyes to the growing problem of food insecurity. Through my work, though, I was able to give a student and his family a chance to eat fresh fruit that he may not have tried before and give a homeless man his first hot—and maybe only—meal of the day. Even though so much more work remains, it was rewarding to be able to give back to a community that has already given me so much.

Ishmael Williams

Senior Nutritional sciences major, chemistry minor

Forest Park, Georgia

My nutrition-related community work started in a community nutrition course. My organization of choice for the class was DC Central Kitchen. Its mission is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds and build communities. I assisted in meal preparation for homeless shelters, schools and nonprofits.

I also had the opportunity during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to educate breast cancer patients, survivors and their family members on nutritional methods that aid in treatment and recovery. I then served as a Health and Wellness Liaison with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in D.C. My site assignment was at Educare, an early education school and community center. I helped assess the institution’s physical education and nutrition status using the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment Tool. The goal was to improve the health and wellness of the children enrolled at Educare, their families and the greater community, which made the assignment impactful and meaningful.

Suraya Bunting

Sophomore

Nutritional science major

New York City

Through my work as an intern at Horton’s Kids, I was able to provide nutrition education to children and families by creating lesson plans and activities linked to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I created activities and presentations that addressed topics in nutrition, such as the importance of the five food groups, the dangers of added sugar, and the benefits of breakfast. We gain empowerment through knowledge, and the more knowledgeable children and their families are on nutrition, the more they can make healthier food choices.

While I was an intern, I spent six hours a day at the Horton’s Kids’ community center, so we often ate together. I noticed that when they received their pre-packaged afterschool snacks they would always throw away their fruits or carrots. However, as I established a relationship with them, I was able to convince them to try the fruits and vegetables. It was wonderful being a positive, healthy influence.

Kirstin Roebuck

Junior

Nutritional science major, dietetics concentration

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

I am an undergraduate research assistant for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences’ Food as Medicine study. The program provides nutritional management to people who suffer from obesity and chronic diseases by providing nutrition education, supermarket tours and cooking demonstrations that teach them how to prepare plant-based meals.

Food as Medicine means to me that we can protect our bodies through diet, or in other words, use food as medicine. I was able to lead supermarket tours to study participants in southeast D.C. I took them through the aisles and showed them how to make healthy food selections by explaining nutrition labels, talking about what’s in the ingredient lists, and showing them how to effectively navigate the store to find affordable healthy items. The lasting impact that I made on the participants was fun and rewarding, and it encouraged me to continue to advocate for healthy lifestyle changes in my community. 

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