Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hands On Experiences in the Community

                Our internship director, Phyllis, works with FSNE to educate low-income seniors in a senior housing apartment building.  In several class days so far, we have learned about how to tailor a curriculum to the audience of a presentation.  In this case, it is extra important to have an engaging and fun presentation since otherwise people will choose not to come back!
On our first visit, we were helping out with a class about how to garden at home. The goal was to teach them easy ways to grow fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs in their apartments, with limited budget and space.  On an earlier week, they had started seeds in a moist cotton ball in each finger of a plastic glove (center of the photo), which is a simple way to keep them wet until they begin to sprout. 

On the day we visited, we helped them pick the largest sprouts and transplant them into pots. This was a really fun way to help them feel like an active participant and give them something they can keep in their apartment in the future. Turnip seeds were the most popular plant, but we also had beets, lettuce, basil, and parsley available for those who had missed the earlier class and still wanted to garden. After we interns helped clean up the soil on the tables, we moved on to the nutrition education piece. There was a lesson on how to keep the plants in sunlight, when to pick them, and how to cook with them. A few very proudly showed us their flourishing basil plants! We handed out a sample of pasta with basil so they could see how to use spices to increase the flavor and palatability of their home cooking without adding a lot of salt.

On another day, we went back to introduce them to new ways to add fruit into their diet.  The attendees gathered around six tables, with an intern or two at each table to socialize and answer any questions.  Phyllis talked for a bit about how to eat different types of fruits, and how they could be mixed with yogurt also.
Photo is blurred for privacy reasons
Meanwhile, I was in the kitchen with Cassie and Kelda prepping our food samples!  We sliced up some more typical fruits like bananas, pears, grapes, and canned peaches.  But we also wanted to introduce them to some new tastes, so we added sliced Asian pears, canned pineapple, and canned papaya.  In bowls on the side, we served a bit of low-sugar yogurt and a bit of low-fat yogurt so they could try both and decide which they preferred.  Overall, the fruit was a big hit! I think about half of them said they loved the Asian pears and would buy them in the future.  Part of the reason we did this demonstration was to educate them on the availability of food resources, such as a government-subsidized grocery delivery service that they can order fruit, yogurt, and other things from.  All in all, I think these activities have been a great way for us to learn what it’s like to work hands on in a small group setting to see meaningful changes in people’s health.

- Maria Pittarelli
follow me on twitter @beyondlettuce

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