Since diving into my service at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, I’ve begun to realize the puzzle-like nature of public health, and how many different pieces come together to form the bigger picture. Because most of my fellow Health Corps members are serving in clinics and hospitals, I figured I would be a bit of an outlier with my position at a food bank; admittedly, I didn’t predict that the term “public health” would directly apply to my service.
At first glance, perhaps it doesn’t. Some of my daily projects include writing and editing newsletter articles, surveying pantry clients about their grocery needs and the food they receive, and even researching recipes and testing them in the kitchen. However, I am seeing more and more how these projects boast a direct connection to public health, even though I don’t find myself in a traditional healthcare setting. The issues of nutrition and food insecurity are indeed public health concerns, and are the driving force behind the Food Bank’s work. Our newsletter articles go out to agencies and communities all throughout the region, providing healthy lifestyle tips and nutritious, affordable cooking ideas to help populations take control of their health. Surveying and engaging with pantry clients offers insight on what the Food Bank can do better to provide foods that meet their needs and promote their overall wellbeing. Drafting and testing recipes— aside from being pretty fun— is crucial for making sure that the ideas we publish and provide to the community are easy to make, use accessible ingredients, and taste good.
Even without coming from any sort of health background, as nearly all of my fellow Corps members do, I am learning through my service that there’s a place for everyone in the public health puzzle. I am surprised and excited by the diverse backgrounds of the people who surround me at the Food bank each day. Individuals of all different fields— from agriculture to finance, food studies to data analysis, dietetics to public policy, and beyond— make up the large staff, and getting to know who they are and what role they play at the Food Bank has helped me better grasp the broad reach of the public health field.
And, surely, it will take just this sort of a diverse, well-rounded team to carry out the Food Bank’s mission of increasing access to healthy foods and eliminating hunger in southwestern Pennsylvania. In much the same way, our work here is just one piece of the larger overall puzzle of improving public health— and it’s a thrilling and challenging puzzle that I am glad to be a part of. I may wear an apron instead of a white coat, but don’t let it fool you.
This post was written by NPHC member Amanda Mayer.
Amanda serves at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as a Health Educator.