Just shy of one year after Merritt’s Food Bank opened and has successfully drawn nearly 3,500 students and community members, Coordinator Brandon Christian has a vision of how the service can go even further to serve its customers: keep them healthy. He has laid the groundwork this semester to make his plan a reality and will continue in the fall.
“Research has shown that people who live in low-income neighborhoods and rely on community-based resources like food banks are often at higher risk for a variety of health issues and diseases,” says Brandon. “My vision has been to offer facts on how to eat better, including nutritional information and meal plans and low-cost, healthy recipes to use the seasonal fruits and vegetables and other products we offer. I’d like to consider the Food Bank a ‘one-stop shop’ where the community can get the food plus all of that information.”
Helping him with his plan are students from Merritt’s Nutrition & Dietetic Program who are being offered community service credit from their instructor Heather Casale to work at the Food Bank. “This is an amazing opportunity to incorporate our Dietetic Technician students into the Food Bank Program here on campus,” she says. “Students are able to participate, contribute, and gain hands-on experience in this vital service.”
Bernice Hoang is the second student to complete the rotation of 75 hours at the Food Bank and has enjoyed putting together helpful flyers as well as information for healthy meals. “I created a weeklong menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and provided nutritional info for each meal, along with recipes, a shopping list, specific brands, estimated prices, and recipes,” says Bernice. “This project gives us a chance to use what we’ve learned to actually help the community.” (See Bernice’s food planning information at www.merritt.edu/foodbank.)Brandon also has solicited and coordinates nearly 30 volunteers who have helped make the Food Bank a success by helping to unload the trucks, stack the produce, and check in community members. He also welcomes volunteers who may have special skills to help students even beyond the Food Bank. Kim Murphy, assistant psychology instructor, used her volunteer experience at St. Vincent de Paul to get a grant from the President’s Innovation Fund to provide care kits for Merritt’s homeless students.
“Thanks to everyone who participates in this program,” says Brandon. “By offering these new services, we are expanding the Food Bank’s purpose and making a greater contribution to our students and the community.” (Pictured: Brandon Christian and Colleen London; and Kim Murphy and Bernice Hoang)
If you have ideas for the Food Bank or wish to volunteer, contact Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also asking the college community to contribute their own healthy, low-cost recipes using the fruits and vegetables and other foods available at the Food Bank which they will be credited for in the upcoming, ongoing online “Merritt College Food Bank Cookbook.”