Thirty nursing students at Pennsylvania College of Technology took the topic of community health literally when they put in time at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
The students are enrolled in a course called Community Health Nursing. For one of the course’s clinical rotations, the students became familiar with and volunteered at the food bank’s Williamsport Warehouse, explained course instructor Sandra L. Richmond.
At the warehouse, students packed fresh-express items, which included fresh fruits and vegetables, and power sacks for school-aged students in need of food for the weekend. They also repacked rice and cereal for redistribution by other northcentral Pennsylvania agencies.
Course assignments in Community Health Nursing focus on increasing nursing students’ awareness of community resources and how the nursing process relates to the health of individuals, families and groups in the community.
Meeting basic needs – such as having enough food to eat – is important to helping manage chronic health conditions and current health issues, Richmond explained.
“Through this experience, students were able to think critically about the need for health planning and collaborating with community organizations such as the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to help ensure individuals and families have basic needs met,” Richmond said.
Learning about the food bank and the people it serves also helped students to clarify their own values related to caring for populations with diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
“I found it fascinating that there is so much food available to so many people in the central Pennsylvania area and by the fact that there are potentially many people who may not be aware of it,” said Richard J. Cabral, a nursing student from Bellefonte.
Cabral shared information about the food bank’s programs with his wife, who provides home care to a resident in an independent-living apartment complex for low-income elderly. The next day, she took the information to work. Since, 12 of the complex’s 14 residents have begun participating in the food bank’s ElderShare monthly food distribution program.
“While it is possible they would have heard of it at some later date, I am glad I had this opportunity to interact with these folks,” Cabral said.
Richmond said many of the students indicated that they plan to volunteer again at the food bank in the near future.
Serving 27 counties, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is the largest nonprofit food distribution organization in central Pennsylvania. The Food Bank solicits, inventories and distributes food and other donated products to more than 800 partner agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, etc.) that directly serve people struggling with hunger. During the past year, the food bank distributed more than 22 million pounds of food – the equivalent of 2.5 tractor-trailer loads of food distributed every day of the year.
Penn College offers five majors in nursing, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and a certificate in practical nursing. To learn more, call 570-327-4519.