Liam John, an undergraduate student at Saint Louis University, has begun to explore some of the systematic ways that individuals living in poverty experience disparities in their access to health care, education, and employment. As a public health major, Liam is particularly interested in understanding the impact of malnourishment and food insecurity among youth. Committed to engaged service and understanding the benefits of experiential learning, Liam has been a tutor at Loyola Academy, a local, Jesuit middle school for boys. He also volunteers at Food Outreach, the only St. Louis organization whose mission is to provide nutritional support and enhance the quality of life of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. For Liam, these experiences have provided important opportunities for deeper reflection and social action, moving him from a mindset of volunteerism to one of advocacy and activism.
I believe that academics should go beyond the traditional classroom. I hope to use my developing knowledge of public health to help address the root causes of food insecurity and malnourishment, particularly for children, in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. My passion for this issue grows from my community service experiences, both locally and globally. Last year, I participated in an immersive service/educational experience at a malnourishment center for children in Yoro, Honduras. It was both an intellectually and emotionally jarring experience that opened my eyes to the depth of malnourishment and terrible impact it has on youth, especially babies. Educational struggles, susceptibility to diseases, ongoing physical challenges, and experiencing poverty can all be traced back to the lack of proper nutrition. St Louis, where I live, possesses many food deserts where impoverished families and children lack adequate access to nutritious food. My goals as a Newman Civic Fellow include: 1) investigate the social policies that contribute to food deserts, 2) engage in advocacy, with support from local organizations, to challenge and change policies that lead to food insecurity, and 3) combat the stigmas and discrimination associated with poverty.