Exploring Nutritional Health
The College Student (Part 3)
Low income community’s health suffer far greater than those of middle class and upper class. People with lower incomes suffer from more illnesses throughout their lifetimes and live shorter lives than those with college educations (cdc.gov). My attempt to uncover the connections of health in my community on and around my college campus have proven more difficult than I anticipated. Though some of my data provides great insight on the availability of nutritious foods, others lead to more questions, and dead ends altogether.
I am beginning to understand the magnitude of difficulties surrounding nutritional health in communities. In my community, I realize gaining access to nutritional knowledge is more difficult than having access to healthier food options. I have found a lack of empathy or interest among people who have the ability to commence real change in community’s health.
The place full of potential for spreading nutritional outreach to the community is the Public Library located downtown near my college campus. From my observations, most of the people utilize the libraries online resources (in fact, every computer was in use when I visited the library).This shows that many of these patrons lack a computer or internet in their homes. The library smells of body order, metabolized stale beer, and urine. Both the lack of home computers and the lack of bathing habits suggest some of the patrons of this public library have low incomes and few may possibly be homeless. These patrons are at the highest risk for health issues relating to malnutrition. So then, where are the clearly marked resources on nutrition or cooking tips available to these patrons? I could not find any.
Even more astonishing was the lack of help the workers provided. I called a couple of times, and managed to leave a very clear and concise message for them to return my call. They never called me back. A week later, I decided to make personal observations of the library resources and demographics. After I walked around a little, I went to the desk clerks, explained I had called earlier the week before, restated my project thesis, and asked when they would have time for a 10–15 minute long interview. They said they did not have time for me, but they may be able to answer some questions over email within the next week or so. Clearly, I could not count on their responses in the short time I had available to complete this project, and they were all too busy at their desks to answer any other of my questions.
In the future, I hope to email the Library my ideas on providing free information on both healthy and affordable cooking tips, and various nutritional facts. This way, they will not have to answer interview questions, but gives them an opportunity to engage through an exchange of ideas.
Gaining access to information on health seems to be the most problematic roadblock. I would love to see a free community exchange on healthy, affordable, and easy recipes available to low-income communities. The library could be a perfect place to set up a designated area for these recipes. These can even be set up on the computers located in the library along with the “health fact of the week” on the their homepage. This could be a great, low-maintenance way to get the community interested, involved, and informed.
I know some libraries have free classes for kids and their parents to interact together in fun and creative ways. How great would it be if local libraries offered free family-friendly classes on nutrition? They could offer free food to take home along with a new recipe once or twice a month. The food could be donated by the Food Bank, local farms, or local grocery stores.
The local newspaper could provide a nutritious fact of the week. This would take up minimal space and could offer some sort of trivia at the end of the month. It could make up a fun crossword puzzle.
The point I am making is that people can not rely on information received from family and friends alone. Many people associate themselves with others who have similar social economic backgrounds as themselves. This is great if you come from an educated background where everyone you know is health conscious, but what if you grew on processed foods? All of your friends probably did too. No one (including you) fully understands how starved your bodies are from nutrition. Empty calories are better than no calories; that is what you say to yourself. But you can be 100 pounds over weight and still be starving because your body is never full of what it needs.
People who go to college tend to be healthier than those who never finished high school. College seems to be the turning point for living healthier lives. This is why I have started my studies with the college community. I wanted to understand why it makes such a difference.
College is the perfect atmosphere to surround adults with people from different social economic backgrounds than they grew up with. This new atmosphere pulls people out from the place they grew up in and surrounds them with new people, knowledge, and ideas. This diversity is the key to greater knowledge. I have yet to find a place that forges such power, for our minds are only as big as the worlds we surround ourselves with.