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Global Health Class Helps D.C. Food Bank Promotion

Share the Harvest PSA

One of the public service announcements produced by the Gateway: Biology of Global Health class detailed the Capital Area Food Bank's Share the Harvest program.

May 14, 2012 – Undergraduates in a relatively new course joined the fight to battle hunger by helping a Washington, D.C., food bank promote its programs.

Students in Biology of Global Health filmed a series of one-minute public service announcements (PSAs) for the Capital Area Food Bank as part of  they can impact the field of public health.

Drawing inspiration from the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and their focus on nutrition, the videos highlight the food bank’s programs beyond collecting canned goods.

“These projects are designed to give students room to exercise their scientific creativity,” says Heidi Elmendorf, associate professor of biology and co-leader of the class. “Science is taught as a cut-and-dried body of knowledge, but of course real science is all about pushing back the frontiers of this knowledge.”

Beyond the Classroom

The PSAs focus on the food bank’s Weekend Bag Program, which feeds children who struggle to find adequate meals on weekends, and Share the Harvest, a program designed to bring produce to D.C. areas lacking access to nutritious food.

The messages also include information on how residents can help stop the cycle of hunger and poverty that plagues many D.C. youths.

The course – a prerequisite for the biology of global health major – allows students to go beyond learning a scientific understanding of health and disease by focusing on how such concepts affect the general population.

Societal Context

"The course “[allows students] to put their science training in the context of societal issues – law, policy, implementation, communication [and] bioethics,” says co-leader Anne Rosenwald, an assistant professor of biology.

Requirements for the course include filming the PSAs, writing a pamphlet, creating a website, engaging in policy debate, drafting a grant proposal and compiling a health survey.

The major graduated its first students in 2010.

The projects also help students hone their communication skills and engages them outside the laboratory.

“We feel strongly that being able to communicate about science is crucial for anyone in science. It’s up to scientists to explain what we’re doing and why,” Rosenwald says.

Breaking the Barrier

Despite the challenge of editing, and packaging research, statistics and video into one-minute clips, students say they found the end result rewarding.

“Every single project we’ve done has been about getting out there, interacting with our surrounding community, addressing community issues, collecting data, bringing them back to class for analysis, and then proposing a feasible solution,” Sofia Boilini (C’14) says. “We have broken the barrier between theory and practice, and I am more comfortable and confident in taking my knowledge of science into action than ever before.”

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