In February 2021, 23 Dental Hygiene students volunteered at the Tri-State Food Bank as part of their research of the impact of homelessness on oral public health.
"Since COVID, many of our opportunities for outreach have been curtailed," said Lorie Coan, Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene. "I was looking for a way for our students to contribute to service learning and outreach safely that was related to their current course requirements and also met accreditation standards for community outreach. They have a term paper whose focus is to be on 'homelessness as an oral public health issue' from a global/national and local perspective ... one part of that issue is food insecurity."
Coan and colleague Mandy Reddington, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene, supervised two groups of students at the Tri-State Food Bank on February 5, 2021, as they explored the meaning of food insecurity and learned that as a result of COVID, community needs are greater now than ever.
The students' rotation began with a tour of the facility. After that, one group worked on sorting multiple barrels of food items into bins and then packing food items into sorted boxes for distribution to local area shelters that provide food directly to the public.
The second group prepared meal boxes for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) Senior Meal Program. "Seniors are often forced to choose between paying rent, utilities, medical bills and buying food," said Coan. "Eligible seniors have access to this senior meal program that offers a monthly box of non-perishable food items to those that qualify."
The students also prepared "back pack" items for local school children. The Tri-State Food Bank's Weekend BackPack Food for Kids Program assists students in grades K-12 who may not have enough food to eat over the weekend by providing them with food bags every Friday during the school year. Each bag contains enough food to feed a child over the weekend.
For more information about the Tri-State Food Bank, visit their website.