Schweitzer Fellow Matthew Blinky has spent the past year working with Jubilee Kitchen and Clinic to improve the health and well-being of underserved people living in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.
From planting an urban garden, to carrying out team-based workshops featuring simple and inexpensive healthy recipes, to devising a health and nutrition-focused “Jeopardy” game (pictured below at left), this University of Pittsburgh occupational therapy student has made it his mission to make health and nutrition education fun and accessible. And he’s brought the local community on board, garnering support from Giant Eagle as well as buy-in from Jubilee’s clients.
Read on for details on Blinky’s interactive approach to health and nutrition education.
Why did you decide to develop your particular project?
Certain health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular issues, are very common in underserved communities. I believe education is vital in the management and prevention of health issues like these. Some of the goals of my project are to promote healthy eating and independent food preparation, and reinforce that eating healthy can be simple and delicious as well as beneficial to overall good health.
I hope my project will provide lasting overall health improvement and prevention tips for health-related issues and illness. The food preparation/nutrition groups promote healthy eating and provide simple and inexpensive healthy recipes. I hope the clients in the community I work with will use information provided to them and learned throughout my project to reduce illness, and ultimately, increase their quality of life.
I believe that presenting information in a fun and interactive way facilitates retention and willingness to value the learned information. I hope using a game format for health information and a hands-on team approach to preparing food will impact a positive change in members of the community.
What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
Although there are many pressing health-related issues of our time, obesity is a complication that can lead to many other detrimental and debilitating issues. Health-related complications such as obesity are preventable, and I think that early education and prevention are key to our society’s future health.
Obesity affects people of all ages and backgrounds—making education and prevention increasingly important to all communities. No health issue will be solved overnight, so taking small steps—such as Schweitzer Fellowship projects and the government’s Healthy People initiatives—are excellent beginnings to healthier communities.
Community activity programs that emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits are realistic ways to reduce obesity in our society. Sustainability of programs like these will help us reduce the severity of many health issues.
What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow so far?
I have been surprised at the amount of work that’s involved “behind the scenes” when developing a project with the Schweitzer Fellowship. I am also very surprised and extremely impressed by the variety of projects the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows are implementing. There is a wide range of graduate study areas among the Fellows, and the projects definitely take different approaches. However, I am also extremely impressed with the respect and interest the Fellows have toward one another. It is always a pleasure to share my experiences and listen to others during the monthly meetings. The atmosphere around each other is always comfortable.
In addition, I am not as much surprised as I am grateful for the tremendous amount of support I have received this past year from Jubilee Kitchen, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Occupational Therapy, and the clients of Jubilee Kitchen. It is a delight to work with the clients. Their enthusiasm and participation has been tremendously instrumental to the success of my project.
The gracious and extended support of my site mentor and academic mentor has also been influential to the success of my project. From listening to my ideas, to assisting in the development of ways to present them to the clients, these two mentors have exceeded my expectations, and I am extremely grateful for their assistance and support. I am also very grateful to my local sponsor, Giant Eagle, for providing funding to support healthy eating among the underserved population of the community with whom I am working.
What does being a Schweitzer Fellow mean to you?
Having the opportunity to be a Schweitzer Fellow and future Fellow for Life means being a member of a network of like-minded professionals with common goals and a common vision. I will be able to use the leadership skills and client interaction experience I gained as a Schweitzer Fellow in my future professional career.
Being able to network with Fellows from the Pittsburgh area at our monthly meetings about their experiences with different populations provides insight to the many health issues and needs of underserved populations. Being involved with the Schweitzer Fellowship has introduced me serving a population that does not have many of the health resources that are readily available to most, and I was able to further develop my relationship with the local community and faculty at my school throughout the project year.
I will always be proud of being a Fellow for Life and will view other Fellows in high regard as leaders in service and recognize the hard work and dedication involved with addressing health related needs in underserved communities. My experience with The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship will be influential in shaping a successful and meaningful professional and personal career. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer said, “With a little reason and much heart, one can change many things, or move mountains.”
Matthew Blinky is a Schweitzer Fellow in Pittsburgh, PA. Click here to read more about the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program and the Fellows like Blinky it supports in creating and carrying out yearlong direct service projects. To make a gift to The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship in honor of Blinky’s efforts to make healthy eating fun and accessible, click here.
Each week, Beyond Boulders delivers a new installment of “Five Questions for a Fellow” – an interview series with Schweitzer Fellows across the country and in Gabon, Africa who are leading the movement to eliminate health disparities. For an archive of previous “Five Questions for a Fellow” interviews, click here.