Food Moxie & the Social Determinants of Health

by 
Melissa Yoon, for the Shuttle
Food Moxie intern Melissa Yoon is a student in Arcadia University’s dual Master of Public Health/Physician Assistant program.

What is needed to live a healthy life? We know we need to eat fruits and vegetables, get enough exercise, not smoke and go to the doctor when we feel sick. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, we all know it’s easier said than done — lack of time, energy and motivation can get in the way of making healthy choices. For some members of our community, it may be even harder, maybe almost impossible, because of something called the “social determinants of health.”

According to the World Health Organization, social determinants of health are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” They are also mostly responsible for health inequities, or the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen across communities. Social determinants of health fall into five categories:

  • Economic stability
  • Education
  • Social and community context
  • Health and health care
  • Neighborhood and built environment

Things like poverty, discrimination and housing quality are all social determinants, and they can affect risks for disease, injury, even life expectancy. Some families and children in our community in Northwest Philadelphia don’t have the resources or opportunities to live their healthiest lives, and this is where Food Moxie comes in.

At Hope Garden at Stenton Family Manor in Germantown, Food Moxie provides education in growing and cooking to families experiencing homelessness. Hope Garden also provides a safe space where residents can take part in gardening and nutrition activities. For children, there are opportunities to engage with nature and interact with other children and adults.

At Hope Kitchen, parents at Stenton can learn skills needed to feed themselves and their families a healthful, budget-conscious diet. They learn about nutrition and its impact on health and child development. At Hope Kitchen, parents can gain both skills and a sense of community with their fellow participants.

Garden Club creates an environment where children at Stenton can learn together and from one another. They have fun digging in the dirt and making healthful snacks while learning about nature and nutrition.

Hope Farm at Martin Luther King High School, also in Germantown, focuses on helping students with intellectual disabilities or autism through the medium of urban farming and nutrition. Students learn valuable life skills such as completing tasks cooperatively, following multi-step directions, developing fine and gross motor functions and working together with others while they take on food production, basic meal preparation and making healthy choices — all skills necessary for living healthy, independent lives and building self-confidence.

W.B. Saul High School in Roxborough is the largest urban agricultural high school in the country. At Saul, students get away from their desks and engage with hands-on activities outdoors, many of them developed by Food Moxie in conjunction with the high school. They get first-hand experience in applying their agricultural education in an urban setting alongside other students, their teachers and community members, investing in both the farm and their community.

Through Food Moxie programming, hundreds of people learn about growing food, preparing meals and making healthy choices — arming our participants with tools necessary to navigate social determinants of health.