The following is a press release from Lifebridge:
Salem and North of Boston, MA – In a unique and first-time alliance of three Salem State University faculty, 19 freshmen, staff at the Lifebridge Seeds of Hope campus, and several Lifebridge clients, minds and helping hands joined to address academic engagement, community service, and the health and nutrition needs for the region’s homeless. The semester-long learning community course, “Sow, Reap, Consume: Food, Culture & Society,” culminated in a December 15 Meals Program Model showcase and tasting event at Lifebridge. Beginning at 7:30 am, the Lifebridge kitchen bustled with activity as the cohort of students worked under the direction of kitchen manager Jessica Williams.
The freshmen studied food through the interdisclinary prism of three classes seminar in interdisciplinary studies, world history, and health and wellness in the process completing a total of 150 hours of volunteer service. They participated throughout the term in meal preparation, service, menu review, and pantry evaluation at Lifebridge. The students applied classroom knowledge to their work at Lifebridge, and applied lessons learned from service and their Lifebridge client partners to their academic work. In addition to dozens of Lifebridge’s lunch clients, Salem mayor Kim Driscoll, and Salem State dean Jude Nixon were among those in attendance while students took turns using PowerPoint presentations to share their research, recipes and menu choices. Following their presentations, the students served an impressive, nutritionally balanced five-course meal.
Freshmen Cella Spinale, Alyssa Driscisio, Latisha Wallace, and Joe Scuzzarelli were in charge of dessert, a healthy preparation of baked sliced fresh apples, brown sugar and cinnamon.
“This course was not what we expected,” commented Cella, 19, of Salem. “In the Lifebridge kitchen and dining room, I learned that cooking is much more than just preparing food. People we served were so thankful and appreciative, and I was surprised to be serving people that I knew from town.”
Other remarks from students demonstrated a greater awareness of food scarcity as reality for so many, and a better understanding of how meals and food consumption are important social and cultural activities, especially for vulnerable populations. Student interviews with Lifebridge clients throughout the semester also revealed the desire for healthier snacks, including more fresh fruit, more protein in meals and more menu variety, including theme nights around Italian or Mexican dinners. The students’ presentations shared what they had learned about how to use available ingredients more creatively, with a focus on nutrition and vitamin-rich options. The lunch they prepared for Lifebridge clients and guests reflected that, with a fresh fruit salad, sautéed spinach, and salmon with tomato cream sauce.
“This is a proud day for us all,” remarked Lifebridge executive director Mark Cote. “This program began with discussions last June on how Salem State could help us address certain needs, with meals being a vital priority. How everyone staff, professors, students, and clients came together to help us reconsider our meals program and learn from each other is highly commendable. Together, we’ve done what Lifebridge is all about: bridging barriers to create positive change. In doing so, we’ve proven once again that education, from both sides of the table, is truly at the core of changing lives.”
In addition to Cote and kitchen manager Jessica Williams, Cristine Cericola, director of clinical services, Jill Brown, Lifebridge shelter supervisor, and Andrew Oliver, past president of the board of directors, were deeply engaged in the project.
Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary and American Studies Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, PhD, Assistant Professor of History Annette Chapman-Adisho, PhD, and Christopher Schoen, PhD, an assistant professor in sport and movement science who teaches health and wellness were the Salem State professors who co-directed the project. “First year learning communities are new but, we believe, essential at the university,” noted Duclos-Orsello, who is also the university’s faculty fellow for service learning. “In addition to greatly enhancing the student education experience and increasing retention,”she continued, “they bring first year students together in meaningful life experiences, well beyond what can happen in the classroom.” Lifebridge clients also had access to class materials, and joined Salem State students on campus for a film screening and a visit to the Peabody Essex Museum to learn about historic foodways and food in art.
Jude Nixon, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, remarked that “Salem State University’s partnership with Lifebridge has been a long and sustained one; one that we hope will continue. The opportunities we at Salem State have to help transform lives in the city and region are things we welcome, for we know that as an institution we are better off because of them; we receive as much from these transformative relationships as we give.”
Looking forward, the Sow, Reap, Consume students are enthused about fundraising to bring a drinking water fountain into the Lifebridge dining room, and they expect to continue with volunteer cooking and service hours. Cote is optimistic that even more Lifebridge clients can engage in shared learning with Salem State students next semester, perhaps in a creative writing program.
For more information on Lifebridge programs and to view additional photos, please visit www.lifebridgesalem.org. Salem State University’s website is www.salemstate.edu