Students educate GR community on obesity

Students educate GR community on obesity

Alyssa Rettelle

Grand Valley State University senior nursing students Jennifer Awad, Ashley VanRaalte, Ellen Seymour, Jessica Mulder and Elliot Mulder have been working with The Other Way Ministries in the southwest neighborhood of Grand Rapids this semester as a part of their final community health project. Despite it being a required and temporary project, they are leaving a lasting effect on the community.

The students began by conducting research about the demographics of the community, and then moved on to door-to-door surveys about what the community saw as its health problems. After assessing the health needs of the area, the team chose an intervention based on what health need they felt they could have the greatest impact on in the five weeks they had with The Other Way. They chose to combat obesity.

In order to do this, the students used a nutritional intervention at The Other Way to give neighbors the resources and information they needed to utilize healthy ingredients. They chose ingredients that were typically underused at the pantry to create meals to serve. They chose rolled oats, canned salmon and canned black peas as the ingredients to create three different meals for the residents.

Elliot Mulder, a senior taking part in the project, said they tried to make ingredients into tasteful foods they could serve to the community members.

“We created salmon patty sandwiches from the canned salmon, oats, onion and egg, plus spices,” Elliot said. “I then fried them in a small amount of olive oil instead of butter. We also made black eyed pea sloppy joes. I called the recipe ‘black eyed sloppies: not your average Joe.’ It basically used black eyed peas as a substitute for ground beef. I made it tasty by adding fresh bell pepper, onion, garlic and chili powder to make a tomato paste which was then mixed with the black eyed peas.”

Seymour said the intervention was important because the obesity rates are so high in that neighborhood.

“Research shows that obesity rates are highest among Kent County residents who are in the lower income brackets, which this community is,” Seymour said. “This means that this community is at high risk for obesity and its associated diseases, which cost the healthcare system a phenomenal amount of money each year.

“So, if we are able to use an established resource, the food pantry, in this neighborhood to lower obesity rates and improve residents’ health status, we not only improve individuals health and quality of life, but lower overall healthcare costs.”

Jessica Mulder said she was pleased with the final outcome of the project.

“I feel like I learned a lot more about public health nursing through this hands-on interaction with the community members with health needs than I could have through writing a long capstone paper,” Jessica said. “I think our project is important because it shows that healthy meals can still be tasty and affordable. Our project was all about empowering the residents of the neighborhood to know how to use their available resources to create healthy recipes for their families and learn about healthier substitutes.”

The Other Way Ministries was established in 1967 with the goal of developing communities and families spiritually, relationally and economically.