For low-income residents who live in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, it can feel as if the landscape is a “food desert” – a place where nutritional and healthy food options are hard to find.
In spring 2015, two graduate students from Samuel Merritt University’s (SMU) School of Nursing decided to make life in the desert healthier.
Amy Stevenson and Jennifer Lee, who are both studying to become Case Managers, started working with the underserved population who live in San Francisco’s single resident occupancy hotels, or SROs. The pair aimed to address the nutritional deficits in their formerly homeless clientele, many of whom suffer from high cholesterol, diabetes, and the overall ill effects of living in a “food desert.”
The students developed a free four-week class for SRO residents who wanted to learn about healthy eating, which culminated in a field trip to the farmer’s market in San Francisco’s U.N. Plaza. Stevenson and Lee give the residents $5 to buy fruits and veggies.
“As students of Samuel Merritt University’s School of Nursing, every one of your semesters you’re actually doing some form of clinical where you’re outside of the classroom working and helping people along the way,” Stevenson says.
For their efforts, Stevenson and Lee were recipients of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program this summer, which awards $2,000 to each student who provides service that targets an “unmet community health need.”
The program continues on; Stevenson and Lee have hosted the free classes in several SROs and impacted the lives of dozens of underserved residents.
“Building a connection with the patients is definitely the first and foremost job of nurse,” Lee says. “It all builds from that initial trust that they have with you. I never really thought that I would be able to really touch people in this way, but to really have people let you into their home and feel comfortable with you and tell you, ‘Thank you,’ and that you made a difference in their lives – it’s amazing.”
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