Practicum Spotlight – Sohely Perven

SohelyInterview Questions:

1.       Where are you completing your practicum? Where is it located?

I am completing my practicum through a collaboration project titled “NO HUNGRY SENIOR PROJECT”. The collaborators in this project are Baptist hospitals, Methodist Hospitals, Metropolitan Inter Faith Association (MIFA), Aging Commission, and the University of Memphis. I am one of the employee in this project at the University of Memphis.

2.    Tell us about this organization and how it contributes to public health.

The project is a collaboration of multiple organization. In this project, MIFA provides nutritious hot meal (Meals on Wheels in America ) to the elder people enrolled in the project who are over 60 years old, while Aging Commission provides different kind of programs for these elder people with disabilities.

3.       Why did you choose to go to this location?

The position became available in the Spring semester of this year, and I have applied for this position. Dr. Debra Bartelli has recruited me for this position with practicum opportunity.          

4.       What project(s) are you working on? What are you duties? What does a typical day of work look like?

I am working on “NO HUNGRY SENIOR PROJECT”. I am conducting statistical analysis on the collected data for this project. I usually receive instructions from Dr. Bartelli, and perform statistical analysis, and submit my findings to her.

5.       What new skills have you learned while working at this practicum location?

This opportunity has taught me practical applications of my coursework. For instance, I am applying data management and SAS programming software for my work.

6.    What have you liked most about your practicum experience?

I like the fact of practical applications of my knowledge garnered through the courses of MPH program. The concept of this project is to support the independence of vulnerable seniors who are in crisis situation and have poor nutrition. When I work on this project, I feel wonderful to be able to contribute to improve the quality of life of these elderly people who are alone, nutritiously poor, and in crisis situation. It make me realize that we should reflect more about seniors in our public health career.

7.       How has this practicum experience supplemented your MPH degree program and future public health career?

This practicum is supplemental to my MPH degree program as I am applying the knowledge and skills learned from the courses. In addition, as a public health student, I am feeling wonderful to be a part of this project as my practicum experience.

8.       Why should future students work at this practicum location?

Students should feel encouraged to work in such a project for their practicum, because they will be able to apply their knowledge in practical case study, as well as contribute in aiding of improvement to our senior situation.

9.       What advice would you give to future students about finding a great practicum experience?

My advice would be to keep an open mind in finding potential practicum opportunities, and attend events related to potential practicum opportunities.


Gardens Fighting Deserts

The dilemma of improving nutrition in the United States is not answered by simply educating people on what to eat. Many people may already know what they should be eating.  We have all heard the recommendations for fresh fruits and vegetables.  The current Choose My Plate initiative from the USDA suggests half of your plate be made up of fruits and vegetables (  Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these nutritious foods, including essential fruits and vegetables.  Much of the United States is covered with what is known as food deserts.

The USDA defines food deserts as:

“. . .urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.”

Pay particularly close attention to Memphis, TN on this map of US food deserts:

News One, among other sources, also ranked Memphis as being the fourth worst food desert in America (

Luckily there are several resources developing right here in Memphis to help increase people’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables, including economically marginalized populations.  Memphis has a plethora of urban and community garden initiatives:

One of the urban gardens projects I would like to highlight is a non-profit organization called GrowMemphis.  Their goal is to eventually provide every Memphian with fresh healthy foods by encouraging small scale/urban farming, and empowering residents who are impacted negatively by the current state of the local food system.  GrowMemphis built and oversees more than 30 gardens throughout the city in collaboration with community members.  They strongly believe food systems should be:

  • Local
  • Healthy
  • Economically Viable
  • Sustainable
  • Just


They have also created an interactive map to show the food landscape of Memphis including farms, gardens, nutrition education sources, farmer’s markets, and locations to access information on local regional, and national food policies.  It is also a great way to make connections with other people driven towards the same food goals.  The map is set up as community-sourced, so anyone can make contributions:

How to connect to GrowMemphis:

We also have a community garden much closer to home!  University of Memphis has sponsored an on campus gardening program through TIGUrS, Tiger Blue Goes Green initiative, in collaboration with Project Green Fork (  The gardens on campus use reclaimed biodegradable materials to grow entirely organic foods.   Goals for the gardens are:

  • To provide an example of an alternative food system
  • Beneficial partnerships with local businesses
  • Educating children and visitors on the environment and food systems
  • Low-impact exercise,
  • Source of nutritious food
  • Sense of community for students

Primary food gardens are located and next to the Fieldhouse, R.P. Tracks, and the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy (SUAPP).


Find out more about the campus gardens at:


Several farmers markets have also become available in the Memphis area as a source of accessible and nutritious food:

Some farmers markets are starting to recognize the SNAP program, Double Green$.  For every dollar spent at participating farmers markets (Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, South Memphis Farmers Market, and Urban Farms Market), the dollar is matched up to a total of $10 spent.  This can provide low income families with up to $20 worth of fresh fruits and veggies.

There are many ways in which you can get involved to help support sustainable modifications to our local food systems.  Gardening programs have positions including project internships, food growing and preparation educators, and gardening volunteers.  The campus garden is always looking for volunteers! There are also donation systems such as Kroger Grocery Store’s Community Rewards Program, in which they match part of their shopper’s purchases to be donated to support GrowMemphis.  Finally, you can spread awareness of the issue of food deserts and these great programs trying to bring an end to them.

Author: Kendra Vaughn

March – National Nutrition Month

Leading Causes of Overweight in Children

  • Inappropriate eating habits
  • Skipping breakfast and overeating later
  • High fat, sugar, and sodium content in snacks and meals
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Eating out and meals on the go
  • Decrease in “family meal time”
  • Lack of consistent meal times
  • Inappropriate serving sizes (super sizing)

Problem: Trends in Beverages Consumption

SSBs Sugar-sweetened beverages: drinks sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners Between 1977 and 2001, consumption of carbonated soda rose 137%.

Policy: Taxes on Sugar Sweetened Beverages

[Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, 2012]

›2 Goals:

  • Raising revenue
  • Changing consumption

A national tax of a penny per ounce on SSBs would generate approximately $13 billion in 2013 alone. ›

What Kind of Tax?

  • Excise Tax
    • Advantages: generates stable revenue, can be imposed at distribution level
    • Disadvantage: Difficult to impose on local level
  • Sales Tax

›Should diet or lite beverages be taxed?

Problem: Food/Beverage Marketing Targeting Children

Shrek Twinkie For all families, regardless of economic status, food marketing has become a problem, with food of little to no nutritional value being advertised to specifically appeal to children. Present advertising tactics have been criticized as predatory, and ingredient-labeling practices of companies have been discovered to be deceptive.

Policy: Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative

This is a voluntary self-regulation program designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.

Problem: Restaurant Meals

  • ›More Money Spent:
  • ›More Calories Eaten
    • Children eat nearly as they twice as many calories (770) at restaurants as do during a meal at home (420).

Strategy: Shared Family Mealtime

[Community Partnership of Southern Arizona]

›“Strive for Five” challenge: Parents pledge to eat five meals together at home as a family per week for five weeks.

Author: Lisa Wang