An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but baskets full of apples drew a crowd of aspiring physician assistants.
They were students from all sections of the first seminar of Gannon University’s physician assistant (PA) program, and they experienced the link between good health and good nutrition first-hand with a two-part service-learning project.
The first part involved Goodwill Gardens, an urban garden initiative at Gannon’s West Hall, a residence hall on W. Sixth St. Goodwill Gardens is a collaborative effort between University’s Erie- Gannon Alliance to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability (Erie-GAINS) initiative, faculty members, facilities department staff and volunteer labor coordinated by the service-learning department.
After a fall harvest that yielded more than 600 pounds of vegetables and herbs for inner city food pantries, the PA students got their hands dirty mending fences and preparing the garden’s raised beds for the chilly months ahead.
Fifteen miles away from Gannon’s urban campus, students went to a farm and orchard in Fairview, Pa. to glean apples and pears–486 pounds of them–for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania. Last year, Second Harvest distributed 11.4 million pounds of food to 285 member agencies and 135 distribution sites for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors in 11 in northwest Pennsylvania counties.
Heather Adams and Carrie Knox, both assistant professors in the PA program, coordinated the project with the assistance of Gretchen Fairley, director of service-learning.
“In completing these projects, we hope that the students realize what an enormous need there is for providing food to families who are less fortunate,” Knox said. “We also hope that they had some fun doing the work and made some friends along the way.”