The Bed-Stuy Provider Network Nutrition Improvement Project: Achieving Social Justice through Community-Based Research and Academic Service-Learning
Barrett Brenton, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Sue Ford, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Jhack Sepulveda, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yael Kowalski, and Canile Jackson
Growing from a cooperative agreement between St. John’s University and St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen has been our involvement with the Bed-Stuy Provider Network Nutrition Improvement Project. This is an initiative of the Bed-Stuy Provider Network (BPN). Originally a partnership of 17 emergency food providers in the greater Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Central Brooklyn, BPN serves around one million meals a year and coordinates the distribution of emergency food assistance. St. John’s University’s involvement with the project is being facilitated through faculty and student participation via community-based research and academic service-learning. A primary goal of this initiative is to support a sustained and integral model of development for ending hunger and dietary-related health issues. In response to these concerns we have been engaged in a project integrating a two-pronged survey to start addressing food insecurity, hunger and chronic disease in this community. One component is a survey of clients seeking out emergency food services through BPN food pantries and/or meals at soup kitchens. This survey includes questions related to dietary intake, household food security, food buying behaviors, and general health status. The other survey is of BPN itself and provides an appraisal of services offered, including a nutritional evaluation of food served and distributed to clients. Preliminary results have reflected a real concern regarding both the availability of and access to more fresh fruits and vegetables through the BPN, as well as the availability, cost, and quality of these foods from surrounding food retailers in the community. Overall we argue that a vital part of any community-based research enterprise is the integration of community stakeholders in to the analysis and decision making process. This transformation is an ongoing process for creating a sustainable and integral model of development through our collaboration with BPN.