Jessica McNeely and Mollie Sprung are doctoral students in UMBC’s Human Services Psychology program.
UMBC’s Graduate Student Association recently launched a partnership with Pigtown Food for Thought, a community organization in Southwest Baltimore, to work toward food justice and the eradication of “food deserts.” This semester’s activities, supported by a BreakingGround Community Program Grant, have included a kickoff panel discussion, cooking classes for young people in the Pigtown/Washington Village neighborhood, gardening, and workshops. The workshops—active, collaborative sessions involving students and residents—have included a shopping excursion to the grocery store to gather fresh ingredients, preparing a healthy meal, enjoying the fruits of our labors and a fun activity designed to get us thinking about our relationship with food. Graduate students from a variety of disciplines, including Imaging and Digital Arts; Geography and Environmental Systems; Mechanical Engineering; Biology; Psychology; Language, Literacy and Culture; and Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, have participated in the program.
During my training as a psychologist, I have had the honor to work as a research fellow at the National Institutes on Aging on an innovative, community-based epidemiological study called the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) study. I work mainly on issues pertaining to cardiovascular health disparities. I am driven by the question, “Why are so many people dying from heartbreak?” My research focuses on how poor diet and chronic stress act synergistically to cause hypertension and diabetes.Sadly, people who are living in poverty suffer a greater health burden from hypertension and diabetes.
The concept of food security is commonly defined as including both physical and economic access to food. The issue of food insecurity represents the intersection of both poor diet quality and chronic stress. I strongly believe that if we work together to eliminate food insecurity it would dramatically reduce the morbidity and mortality due to cardiovascular disease.
The BreakingGround collaborative project between GSA and Pigtown Food for Thought, provided me with the unique opportunity to transform my academic interests into social action. Because I am passionate about the cause, absolutely love working with children [Read more…]