Medical students in the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) track planned and hosted a Food Justice Fair in partnership with the MLK Jr Family Services Center food pantry on July 23, 2020.
Some 40 food pantry clients participated in the fair, which featured a variety of educational activities on eight health topics.
A total of 33 students across several disciplines volunteered at the event. The 22 PURCH volunteers represented all four classes—including two incoming first year students—and were joined by two other UMMS med students, eight Western New England University pharmacy students, and a social work student from Westfield State.
(Photo: Some of the healthcare profession students who volunteered at the Food Justice Fair. PURCH students are in yellow. Project lead Jaclyn Wong is kneeling in front.)
According to project lead Jaclyn Wong, PURCH Class of 2023, most participants interacted with all eight educational stations and had positive feedback.
Many commented that the health topics were relevant to them and that the volunteers were very knowledgeable and approachable.
And, several said they would participate in a fair like this again, indicating a real need and desire for accessible education and engagement in this community.
All Health Education Stations Were Very Well Received
The Hands Only CPR and Heart Health stations were very popular.
Participants said they liked practicing CPR and getting feedback on their technique. They also appreciated getting their blood pressure checked.
The Cooking Demonstration station offered giveaways geared for this community.
PURCH students created a cookbook of healthy and delicious recipes using ingredients available in a food desert. There were also sample packets of homemade salt-free taco seasoning to demonstrate that food can be flavorful without adding salt.
Participants were glad to receive trustworthy information at the COVID-19 station.
This station was also popular—participants were very curious about the pandemic. They were also able to sign up for COVID testing to be offered at a later date..
The Advocacy and Case Management station helped participants advocate for legislation.
Letter templates were distributed for participants to send to their local representatives advocating for two bills of interest to this community: one regarding substance use treatment in lieu of imprisonment; and another about providing breakfast to schoolchildren.
Thirty letters were mailed that day and several templates were taken home by participants for friends and family to send.
Other stations covered diabetes, wellness and exercise, and healthcare proxies. All handouts, posters, and activities used at the fair were researched and developed by a team of 15 PURCH students.
A Baystate MLK Semester of Service Grant Supported the Project
A 2020 MLK Semester of Service Award provided funding to help the Food Justice Fair project successfully meet its goal of engaging meaningfully with the community Baystate Health serves.
Baystate’s MLK Semester of Service Award supports projects driven by students in health profession programs that benefit communities in Franklin, Hampshire, or Hampden Counties