Service-Learning Science Course Targets Harlem Health Issues
Establishing an on-campus farmers' market was one of the objectives of the Division of Science service-learning program.
A new service-learning course offered by The City College of New York’s Division of Science gives CCNY undergraduates the opportunity to apply their scientific knowledge to community projects that address critical health issues in the Harlem community.
The course began as “Focus on Obesity” in spring 2010 and targeted the issue of obesity that has reached epidemic proportions in Harlem with 48 percent of children living in its zip codes considered to be overweight or obese. It is funded by the City College Academy for Professional Preparation, which is partnering in a Learn and Serve America grant to the Center for Advanced Study in Education at the CUNY Graduate Center.
As part of the course, students initiated projects to promote better nutrition as a strategy for reducing obesity. The projects the class worked on are: making healthy snacks available in City College vending machines, convincing local bodegas to offer healthy lunches at affordable prices and establishing an on-campus farmers’ market.
The class worked with a variety of community and governmental organizations including Metropolitan Food Services, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Mailman School of Public Health, Community Board 9 and the Montefiore Park Neighborhood Association.
The instructor, Jyoti Kaushal, a 2003 CCNY graduate, sees the class as an opportunity to promote sustainable practices as well. “This semester we’re moving from access to healthy food to educating people on the environmental impact of the food industry,” she said. For the fall semester, the course was titled “Environmental Impact of Food.”
Ms. Kaushal who holds a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in addition to her BS degree in biochemistry from CCNY, adds that long-term goals include a farmers’ market at Montefiore Park and a garden on the CCNY campus. Montefiore Park occupies a small triangle of land just east of 137th Street – City College subway station.
“We want to create more awareness of the need to buy local foods,” Ms. Kaushal said. “Right now they are more expensive but if people ask for more locally grown fresh produce eventually suppliers will make that available at lower prices.”
“Our students have an intense interest in helping people, and the way to practically apply science knowledge to helping people is through service learning,” said Dr. Millicent Roth, assistant dean of science and grant administrator for City College. “This makes science relevant to community issues.”