Med Student Project Aids Food Shelf Donations
Release Date: 12-17-2009
According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, more than 12 percent of Vermont households are food "insecure" — meaning they do not have consistent access to enough food. Helping families in need achieve food security is the aim of a food shelf, which relies on community citizens and businesses for donations to meet this objective. However, the nutritional quality of the donations is not always addressed.
In collaboration with the Burlington, Vt.-based Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, a project led by second-year University of Vermont medical students seeks to ensure that the local food shelf not only receives enough donations, but receives sanctioned nutritious donations.
"Nutrition is the cornerstone of good health and as a public health issue, has been the focus of several of our second-year medical students' projects over the past six years," says Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health and director of the Medical Student Leadership Groups (MSLG) II public health projects. "These projects are 'practical research' — they enable community interventions that can be sustained over time and shared with other communities, both in Vermont and nationally."
The MSLG group developed a poster promoting a list of "Food Shelf Friendly"-designated foods and associated stickers to be placed on shelves at several area grocery stores. The list emphasized vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and included a variety of foods, paying attention to calories, protein, saturated fat, and sodium.
"We collected baseline data from seven stores about how much food is being donated normally," explains second-year student Isaac Noyes. "Then, in early November, the poster and stickers went up at three stores, and the poster with a tear-off list of foods to donate went up at two stores." Two stores, which serve as the "control" in the student project's study, had neither of these interventions.
Noyes and his group picked up donation boxes regularly, measuring the number of donations at participating stores over several weeks. They are currently comparing this data to the baseline data collected at the start of the project and hope to determine which intervention — either the poster alone or poster and stickers — was most effective in increasing donations to the food shelf in general, as well as increasing healthy donations. The team's final results will be presented at the UVM College of Medicine's Public Health Project Poster Session and Celebration on Wednesday, January 27, 2010.
"Food Shelf Friendly" Donations List: