Category Archives: Health

A Season for Giving by Jasmine Bullock

The holiday season is always an exciting time of year. Families and friends often fellowship and exchange gifts. It is also a time for giving and the West Philadelphia area is abundant with opportunities to give to people in need, of all ages. Community Coordinator, Pamela Evans has made it her mission to provide opportunities for students and families in need. Ms. Evans spent fifteen years serving the students and families of Discovery Charter School. Within the last year, she transitioned to Alain Locke Elementary, a Community School in West Philadelphia, where she has instituted several programs to service the families throughout the area.

The Locke school and Pam Evans have initiated a “Community Closet.” This space is open for donation of clothing and hygiene supplies for people of all ages. The donations of clothing, toys, baby supplies, and bath supplies are open to all but specifically those who reside in the West Park High Rise apartments and shelters. The Locke School is continuously open taking in tax deductible donations. They are especially in need of donations of diapers children’s clothing, and clothing adults can wear for job interviews. They are also looking for school uniforms and sweat pants to help discourage student absences due to lack of appropriate clothing.

This particular community closet is special because of the personal attention “shoppers” get when looking for items. The school has acquired a volunteer to work as a shopping attendant. This individual not only sorts and maintains the items donated to the closet, he also works with individuals to choose items to best fit their needs. The personal attention allows those in need to feel special and guarantees that they receive the right items.

Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday season, Ms. Evans has several missions planned. With the help of local organizations and businesses such as Westside Church and the People’s Emergency Center, Ms. Evans was able to organize the donation of approximately 45 Turkeys to families for their Thanksgiving feasts. Ms. Evans is proud that Lavish Restaurant at 4308 Lancaster Avenue will provide dinner on Thanksgiving for 300 people free of charge.

Ms. Evans also arranged for three students at the Locke School to have a dinner at Lavish Restaurant with their families. The students will be chosen through raffle based on their attendance and timeless to school throughout the month of November.

Another initiative that is thriving is the Gifts of Warmth Drive. This project looks to collect socks, hats, gloves and scarves for children in the area. Ms. Evans has partnered with local hair salons and barber shops on Lancaster Avenue to host donation boxes for their clients and members of the community to drop off donations.

The Gifts of Warmth initiative goes beyond the doors of the Locke School. Each year, the Please Touch museum collects coats for children in need. They send all of their donations to the Second Antioch Baptist Church. Rev. Dr. Joe Nock and his leadership team distribute the gifts of coats to not only members of the church who are in need but also to community members throughout Parkside. While winter is often thought of as a season for giving, donations to many of these initiatives can be given throughout the year. Sweater, scarf, hat, glove and sock donations can be left at the Please Touch Museum from November 24th through December 8th. All donations to the Locke School for the Community Closet can left in the main office of Alain Locke School, 4550 Haverford Avenue, from 8am to 3pm weekdays.

Remember, the holiday season is a time for fun and family but also a time to think about giving to families.

Food Cupboards in the Parkside Area

325 North 39th Street
Saturdays; 10:30am – 1:30pm

Church of New Hope and Faith
662 N. 39th Street
Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 9:30am – 3:30pm

Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
19 South 19th Street
Mondays; 10am until 150 households are served

Grace Lutheran Church
3529 Haverford Avenue

Mt. Zion United Holy Church
4110 Haverford Avenue
West Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church
4527 Haverford Avenue


Healthy Habits – Holidays and Beyond

by Maggie Davenport

With the Holiday season in full swing, physical activity has likely slowed way down and celebrating with family and friends is a regular occurrence. During this three to four-month period (from Halloween through New Year’s), the average person will gain between two (2) and 10 pounds. With the weight-loss and fitness
industry racking up profits in the billions, large numbers of the population are seeking help and it’s not just during the holidays.

Long before first Lady Michele Obama’s shout out for us to ‘keep it moving!’, it was a known reality that intake and output are what determines weight: If you eat (‘intake’) a meal that provides more calories (energy) than your body needs to maintain its normal functioning without burning the extra energy (‘output’), weight
gain will happen; if on the other hand ‘intake’ is less, then weight loss results. Our goal is to work toward a lifestyle that focuses on mindful eating plus finding a way to ‘move it’ that works for you.

No matter where you are in your healthy lifestyle journey, progress is within reach– even during the holidays. A good first step is being mindful of your actions, taking time to carefully consider the kinds and variety of food taken in and the amount that is needed to support a particular lifestyle. Secondly, an understanding of the kind and amount of nutrition that is needed helps to keep the focus on the ‘intake-output’ equation.


The experts all agreed that a well-balanced diet and activity are the foundation of good physical (and mental!) health. The US Department of Health and Human Services has set physical activity guidelines and recommendations for all age groups; the Department also suggests ways to adjust activity for a number of health conditions – like asthma and arthritis. Also, diet and activity help prevent ‘the big three’ diseases that large numbers of African Americans experience more often than other Americans: heart disease, diabetes and stroke. In addition to providing a social outlet for all ages, exercise also helps with the following:


Making sure to eat foods with good nutritional value is tough, the fast-food industry and ‘laid back’ lifestyles (code for low physical activity!) make it even harder. Knowing daily calorie (energy) requirements is helpful. The numbers range from 1,000 for a newborn to 3,200 for an adult male. To get some idea of the number of calories needed for your age, gender and lifestyle, go to ‘’ and enter the required information. This information will make reading and interpreting product labels more meaningful.
Take a look at the label below, use the right side as a guide:

Additionally, many minority and ethnic communities prefer traditionally prepared food,
especially around the holidays; many times, these foods are not nutritionally balanced and are
heavy in salt and fat. The National Institutes of Health provides substitutions that are based on
the ways that minority and ethnic groups prepare food. Keep in mind that genetics play a
huge part and many times, a family history of disease can mean that exercise and diet alone
are not enough to improve health conditions. Be sure to consult your physician as needed.

Make A Plan!

The next step is to make a plan for eating and movement that will become part of your regular routine behaviors during the holiday season and beyond. Mindfulness involves developing the habit of thinking about and planning what you eat and what you do and being aware or ‘present’ while you are doing it. The SMART goal-setting approach helps maintain this focus and can be applied to help achieve any outcome. Here are the steps:

S-Specific: Set specific actions that you will take.

M-Measurable: Make sure that the actions are measurable. This could be in time, distance, amount or any other measurable quantity (like 1 serving of a food item).

A-Attainable: Be sure that your goal is ‘doable’ and can reached.

R-Realistic: (or relevant): Set a goal that is realistic to and for your purposes.

T-Time: Set a time-frame within which you want to achieve your goals. Make this the holiday season that you get the jump on extra weight gain- take control of your health!

Indego Bike Profile: Lorraine Gomez

by Michael Burch

Meet Lorraine Gomez a longtime resident of East Parkside and a relatively new member of the Indego Bike family. Lorraine lives in Parkside and works in Mantua. Lorraine is the community coordinator at Mount Vernon Manor, a CDC that specializes in neighborhood revitalization and related services to West Philadelphia. Lorraine is also a driving force in her community and serves as block captain to her East Parkside neighborhood and president of VSRA.

She does not yet ride her Indego bike to work but she is building towards it. Lorraine is a stanch supporter of the senior citizens who live in her community. To that end she has partnered with Indego to host community friendly bike workshops for adults to learn to ride a bike again. This turns out to be very helpful for adults who may not have been on a bike in years.

She has run many programs to keep Seniors active. She feels that Indego bikes are a good way to keep seniors active and ambulatory for many years to come. As mentioned earlier a upcoming Adult Learn to Ride class is enrolling people now .These classes teach you the basics of urban riding and give you the confidence and knowledge to ride on Philadelphia streets. If you are interested in being in the next class call 215-910- 9206 for details and look for the flyer in the Parkside Happenings section of this paper. Lorraine is also working with Indego to create a neighborhood bike map for Parkside. That is something new bike riders could use. Lorraine feels that bikes are the perfect solution to the residential parking problem in her neighborhood and are a good way for older residents to stay in shape. For urban living, bikes could be the wave of the future. See you on the trail Lorraine!


Philadelphia’s “Park Champion” has a New Leader

by Jasmine Bullock

Jamie Gauthier is the new Director of the
Fairmount Park Conservancy

Since 1998, the Fairmount Park Foundation, now the Fairmount Park Conservancy, has invested millions of dollars in the Philadelphia park system. The organization is a “Park Champion” and has been so effective because of its understanding of the importance of parks to our city’s neighborhoods. The Fairmount Park Conservancy takes pride in increasing public awareness of the park’s role in contributing to the health and vibrancy of neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Today the Park Conservancy works very closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to develop and implement projects and programs that support, improve, and enhance Philadelphia’s parks. One of its premier programs is the Oval at the Art Museum that provides not only a play area for children, but also a beer garden and food truck hub for adults over a six week period during the summer. The Conservancy also works closely with community groups and over 115 Friends groups. The Conservancy aids in forming new groups and in sustaining and supporting existing groups dedicated to their neighborhood parks.

As of July 2017, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is under the new leadership of Jamie Gauthier. Gauthier is a native of Philadelphia who began her career at DuPont working in the field of accounting. During that time, she had a desire to do more meaningful work that helped cities and specifically the struggling communities of Philadelphia.

With a growing passion to work intimately with the community, Gauthier embarked on a graduate degree in Urban Studies and Planning from University of Pennsylvania. With a new career focus, Gauthier gave almost ten years of service to the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). LISC is a national non-profit organization that provides capital from private sources to promote and support low income housing projects and community revitalization. Gauthier described LISC as a great place to learn but wished to serve in more of a leadership position.

Gauthier then became the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business network, a “Chamber of Commerce for socially conscious businesses”, as Gauthier describes it. After four years with this group and her recognition of the new potential that the new Philadelphia soda tax would provide, she decided that now was the right time to make a career change.

She made the decision to take the leadership position with the Philadelphia Parks Conservancy in order to take advantage of the Rebuild Initiative that was the direct result of the revenue produced by the soda tax. Rebuild is a $500 million program designed to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreational centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city.

The funds are acquired from both the soda tax and private donations. Gauthier’s vision is to “connect and partner with the city to see the mission come to pass”.

All School Lunches Are Not Created Equal

by Taylor Sanders-Palmer

It’s that time of year again! The store shelves are stocked with notebooks, binders and Post-Its while colorful and eye-catching banners promote ‘Back to School Deals!’. Parents are certainly aware of the supplies that their children should be taking to school but do they also know what kind of food is being served at lunch time.

Of course its no question that the students in Philadelphia are extremely lucky to receive free breakfast and lunch. Since 2014 the School District has been providing free lunches and breakfast. The free meals programs are covered by the Federal Government and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. conducted a campaign called ‘Fed Up’ that focused on the quality of food being served to students under the Free and Reduced Lunch Programs. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that these children are receiving food with the correct amount of nutrients so they can function better and be more productive in the classroom. (Various studies have shown there is a strong relationship between healthy nutritious meals and student achievement).


Members of, a nationwide youth group, were asked to post pictures of their lunches and vote “would you eat it or toss it?”. The results of this inquiry showed that 70% of school meals were deemed unsatisfactory. Extensive conversations with a few Philadelphia students from various elementary and secondary schools resulted in frank and illuminating comments regarding their cafeteria experiences. The results we received were mixed. Most students complained about taste, but how do you balance good taste with good nutrition.

We are facing ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity as we usher in the start of a new school year. What should (or can) our schools and parents be doing to improve lunch programs in order to help combat the rising numbers of unhealthy students in our classrooms? In 2012, Michelle Obama challenged and encouraged parents and schools to feed children more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods, and to increase their whole grain intake. Many schools in Philadelphia have stepped up to this challenge by partnering with Vetri Community Partnerships whose vision or slogan is HEALTHY BODY + HEALTHY MIND = HEALTHY LIVING. Their mission is to help children and their families live healthier life styles through the use of “fresh food, hands on experience, and education”. More information about this organization’s initiative or about partnering with YOUR child’s school can be found at You may also call (215) 600-2630 for additional information.

The Journal is interested in learning what its readers have to say regarding this important issue. What changes (if any) would you like to see implemented regarding the meals and nutritional programs in our schools?

Heart Disease and Nutrition: What You Eat Can Save Your Life

by Dr Albert Hicks III, a Senior Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and in most of the developed world. Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and hypertension also disproportionally affect African Americans and other minority groups in the US. In my Cardiology practice, patients frequently ask what lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their chance of developing heart disease. For years I would tout the mantra of increasing exercise, quitting smoking, taking the right medications, and healthy eating.

The first three suggestions were easy to sell since the evidence supporting them was so robust. Exercise training has been shown to reduce deaths in people with heart failure and in folks that just had a heart attack. Cigarettes accelerate atherosclerosis and increase cardiovascular deaths, while quitting substantially reduces the risk of death. There are numerous medications such as Aspirin and Statins, that have been shown to reduce mortality in folks with heart disease. The last point regarding a healthy diet has been notoriously difficult to define.

What exactly does ‘eating healthy’ mean? Is it eating exclusively fruits and vegetables? Does it mean a diet high in protein and fat like the Atkins diet? Are carbohydrates a staple in a healthy diet? Or perhaps a diet very low in carbohydrates is healthy?

Unfortunately, at some point all of these diets were in vogue within the medical community. They were recommendations that made common sense. But when studied on a population level, none of these diets demonstrated an improvement in heart disease outcome. Because of the lack of clear cardiac benefit of any particular diet, many fad diets flooded the market. It is no wonder why my patients never know what types of foods they should eat to be healthy. But finally that has all changed.

A Gift from the Mediterranean
For years there has been discussion in the medical community regarding the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The diet represents foods traditionally found in the Mediterranean part of the World, particularly Greece and southern Italy.

But variations of the diet are found in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Bulkan region. Scientists observed that people who live in these parts of the world suffered from significantly less chronic diseases and had higher life expectancies than their Western counterparts.

What foods comprise the Mediterranean Diet
The following foods are staples in the Mediterranean Diet:
• Fruits
• Cereals, Pasta, Bread
• Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
• Moderate fish, poultry
• Small amounts of red meat
• Moderate dairy (GREEK YOGURT, cheese)
• Moderate consumption of wine w/ meals

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.28.59 PMThe foods in should be grown and produced locally. Quality of food is heavily stressed over the quantity. Fresh foods are essential to the diet. Lastly, the creators of the diet stress that food should be savored, and enjoyed.
In April 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a ground- breaking dietary study that has transformed my practice. The study examined the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease. The researchers followed over 7400 people who were at high risk of developing heart disease but were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. The participants were then assigned to assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil; a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a Control diet that was low in dietary fat. They followed folks for five years.

The results of the study showed that in people at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events including heart attack, stroke, and death.

This study finally validates a diet that can save lives and reduces the chances of developing heart disease. I now recommend the Mediterranean diet to all of my patients, friends, and family. Additionally I challenge them to change their eating culture: eating as a family, experimenting with new foods, and eating for longer periods of time to truly enjoy the experience.

I challenge anyone that is reading this article to try this diet out. It just one day may save your life.