Justin Delasko, a registered dietitian, teaches a nutrition course on campus. After wanting to focus on bringing a new experience to one of the class’s lessons on food equity, he decided to partner the class up with Catherine’s Cupboard, Mount Aloysius College’s food pantry, to bring the the students an entirely new experience that not only benefits their knowledge, but also benefits the community at large.
“When I first started teaching this course, I would get to that chapter in the text where we talked about food equity and I didn’t always have what I thought was a tangible assignment for them to participate in,” said Justin. “It was a more traditional dissemination of materials and information, just basically a lecture with some sort of questionnaire assignment.”
He is now hoping that, when it comes to teaching his students in the course through a hands-on approach, they will be able to take more from the class with them and use that new knowledge and experience to help others in the future.
“I really hope that not only do we understand the scientific mechanisms behind what we eat, and how that impacts our bodies because we really are what we eat, but then also help cultivate an experience where they can go out into the world so that they can feel informed and empowered to then take ownership of their health and make nutritious decisions off of what they know versus what they hear about in a Facebook post or from an Instagram influencer.”
Because of the pandemic, Justin believes that the necessity for assistant programs like Catherine’s Cupboard have increased due to more people being out of work as well as the different food shortages which are occurring. “Food insecurity increased significantly when the pandemic first landed, and I still think there are remnants of that. So, things like Catherine’s Cupboard and various things around the community have been really helpful during this time when there’s a lot of questions and uncertainty as to where your next meal is going to be, and that provides a very dependable and admirable resource for them to utilize.”
One of the other main goals Justin hopes to accomplish through having the class work with Catherine’s Cupboard is to help to destigmatize the idea of using food pantries for assistance. He believes the emotional insecurity that occurs because of the stigma around people using food pantries prevents a lot of people who are in need of assistance from utilizing those assistance programs.
“I think having these resources so that students know that they don’t have to hide, they don’t have to be insecure, they don’t have to feel shameful, that these assistant programs are designed for moments like this. It’s really, really important to know that they’re not alone either. It’s a very isolated feeling, and it’s important to highlight that they are not the only ones, that we all recognize it and we want to be able to help in any way we can. One of these ways that we help is by providing an adequate food supply that provides very nourishing foods.”