Nutrition is an important aspect of living a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, not everyone in the United States has access to nutritional foods on a regular basis. Particularly in urban environments, many people struggle to find fresh or local produce and other alternatives to processed food.
Seniors Julianne Evans, Margaret Geraghty, Sophie Johnson and Abby O’Loughlin are using their Senior Capstone project to improve urban nutrition in the Dayton area. The seniors aim to impact the accessibility of local produce in Dayton and raise awareness about the importance of local and healthy options for nutrition in schools.
“We’ve focused a lot on bringing local produce into CJ,” said Margaret Geraghty. “We want to make the school aware that there is a local produce option and it’s healthier.”
“Our main goal is to educate people,” added Julianne Evans. “It’s better for health and better for the community.”
To achieve their goal the group has developed posters to post around the school cafeteria. They have also contacted local farmers and Grinders, the company currently providing the food for CJ lunches.
“We’re trying to get produce from a local farm for at least one lunch day at CJ,” said Evans. “We’re talking to Hydrogrowers Produce and trying to work something out. We’re going to have posters in the cafeteria, probably near the salad bar explaining the new produce.”
The young women were inspired by their experience participating in the Urban Plunge, a mission trip to Cincinnati where students experience a weekend of living in poverty.
“We were exposed to the injustices that urban families go through,” said Evans. “We were made aware of low nutrition in urban areas, and how important it is for families to get the proper nutrition.”
“Basically, we ‘plunged’ into an area in Cincinnati with a very large population of people living in poverty,” added Abby O’Loughlin. “We got the opportunity to work with and provide help for a number of people living below the poverty line and experiencing homelessness. It was very clear that they had little access to fresh, healthy food, and it was playing a critical role in their health.”
“I think that was most rewarding part for me, even though it wasn’t really part of the project,” said Geraghty. “It was inspirational and impactful.”
To spread awareness, the seniors have organized two service days at the Mission of Mary Cooperative on April 23 and April 24.
“We helped them with their garden,” said Geraghty. “We sent out a sign up sheet and other students joined us on both days.”
Hoping to reach a wider audience, Sophie Johnson also wrote an article about their project that appeared in the CJ school newspaper.
“The most rewarding part of the project has definitely been how much I have learned,” said Johnson. “I never knew about Mission of Mary farm, an urban farm in Dayton, and I had never really understood how big of a problem the limited access to fresh produce is.” According to Johnson, providing service on the farm was a great experience. “It felt good to know I was helping to get nutritional food to people who don't get the opportunity day to day to have healthy, great food that is fresh,” she said.
The senior’s mentor, Jama Badinghaus, said she is impressed their hard work and dedication. “I’ve been impressed by their interest in finding information from local farms and the response from local farmers who were interested in engaging with them. It’s a difficult issue due to barriers like cost and accessibility and – if nothing else – this project will open a door for a conversation about local and healthy food,” she said.
Now the search begins to find a group of students interested in the same topic who can continue their work next year.
“We would really like to pass the group on to a group of next years seniors so they can carry out our work and keep bringing local food into the cafeteria,” said Evans.
Ultimately, the seniors hope to leave a lasting impression on their classmates. “I would say the most rewarding part of this project is educating students and teachers on a social justice issue that so many people look past, even though it is very prevalent in the city we live in,” said O’Loughlin. “When most people think about hunger or poverty, they think first of third world countries. It’s our goal to help people see that poverty is right here in our own neighborhoods, and I think it is important that we are opening others eyes to this fact, and providing different ways to help out.”