AUNI Program expands throughout Philadelphia
The Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative adds six new schools to the program
September 10, 2012, 11:24 pm·
This academic year, the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, a program that combats poor nutrition and physical fitness in West Philadelphia, is expanding its presence both on campus and in the city.
AUNI —which already reaches over 10,000 Philadelphia public school students and their families — will now offer educational programs in more public schools in Philadelphia. While in the past AUNI worked mostly with West Philadelphia schools, the program will include six more schools, including ones in South Philadelphia.
AUNI, a program of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, grew out of an Academically Based Community Service course in 1995, and has been expanding ever since.
With recent budget cuts to nurses and school lunch programs in the school district, ABCS and Student Engagement Coordinator Jarrett Stein said that a goal for this year is to persuade the Penn community to address this problem.
Penn students can volunteer and also complete work-study jobs at AUNI. The program meets with Penn students to discuss how to connect their skills, experiences and academic pursuits to AUNI’s mission so that the experience is mutually beneficial.
“The beauty of food is that it connects to literally every single discipline that we have at the university,” Stein said. “There’s no more pressing a time than now to get involved.”
AUNI also plans to partner with student engagement clubs as well as Greek organizations on campus to work on big projects that require many hands and hours, according to College senior Nellie Catzen, AUNI’s Student Engagement Leader.
Catzen said a goal for this academic year is to communicate the enormity of health disparity problems to students.
“We are facing this huge, huge problem in West Philly, as Penn students we are at a unique advantage to apply the resources — intellectual and monetary — that Penn can give us, in the community, directly,” she said.
AUNI’s activities are integrated into the university-assisted community school model. The ecological approach to nutrition education includes hands-on growing, cooking, consuming and selling of healthy foods through its Eat Right Now program, the official Pennsylvania Nutrition Education TRACKS Program of the School District of Philadelphia.
AUNI also provides paid internships to approximately 75 high school students, according to Danny Gerber, AUNI founder and director. The goal is to empower the students to explore and fix health disparities in West Philadelphia and ultimately in urban America. Interns teach healthy cooking classes, care for gardens and operate farmer’s markets.
“Our mission is to engage, educate and empower young people, Penn students, community residents, public school students and teachers to change the local food system and to promote healthy lifestyles in the community,” Gerber said.
Later this semester, AUNI plans to host a regional daylong conference that will bring together youth from urban cities on the East coast to participate in food justice and youth empowerment workshops and learn from each other.