Student Spotlight – Bhavin Chauhan

Bhavin1. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I am originally from India, and came to America when I was 11 months old. I grew up in two different states. First being in Texas until the 4th grade, and later Michigan until 2012, where I then moved to Tennessee.

2. What previous degrees and educational experiences have you earned?

I have earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies here at the University of Memphis. I have also worked in several biology related fields such as pharmacy tech, nurse assistant, bioresearch, and lab analyst.

3. Where do you work?

Currently, I work as a Graduate Assistant for Tiger Blue Goes Green event, under the supervision of Dr. Levy. I plan to continue working here at School of Public Health with Dr. Jia and Dr. Banerjee in the department of Environmental Health.

4. What got you interested in public health?

The environment is what got me interested in Public Health; particularly global environment problems/disasters. I realized that longevity and good health can be achieved for everyone if we solve the environmental problems that occur daily and affect us in many ways. It is not enough to just cure the disorder, but rather prevent and eliminate the possibility of it to occur. As often said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are all connected to the biosphere, and I believe that if we look at the larger picture to tackle the original upstream causes, our livelihood would benefit greatly.

5. Why did you choose our MPH program?

Having a passion for the environment, I interacted with many of my advisors and professors during my undergrad days about where I would like to be going next. After graduation, I had a wonderful opportunity to work in a cancer lab. It got me thinking about ways to prevent cancer and other health related diseases, which in large part are caused by environmental stressors. So I decided to visit the Public Health department at UofM, where I met Dr. Jia and Dr. Banerjee. After talking to them, I felt that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. 

6. What do you like most about our School of Public Health?

The students and faculty members is what I love most about our School of Public Health. Everyone at the school is so passionate about what they believe in and the changes they can make to the PH cause. The many qualities they keep at heart and show enthusiastically all play a role in SPH being a place of knowledge-driven, professionalism, and fun environment.

7. What one public health change would you like to see in the Memphis area?

I would like to see more initiations and actions towards environmental concerns that impact the greater Memphis. The particular environmental concerns would be the bio/chemical exposures that are prevalent in the city from air and food sources.

8. How would you like to apply your MPH degree to your future goals and career?

I would love to join the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My goal is to be involved in coordinating/consulting solutions for environmental problems throughout the nation, and bringing those ideas forward on a global scale.

9. What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about helping people and the environment. A harmonious co-existence of human, science, technology, and nature is something I would like to bring about. I would also like to advocate new methods and practices that can reverse the affects of current environmental damages caused by humans (climate change, global warming, etc.).

10. What are your hobbies/interests?

I love biking, hiking, working out, and hanging with friends. When I am indoors, I tinker around with computer software and electronics, read books, listen to music and on occasion play video games.

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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 (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/).  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:

http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx

News One, among other sources, also ranked Memphis as being the fourth worst food desert in America (http://newsone.com/1540235/americas-worst-9-urban-food-deserts/).

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:

http://foodtank.com/news/2014/08/ten-notable-urban-agriculture-projects-in-memphis

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

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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:

http://map.growmemphis.org/

How to connect to GrowMemphis:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/GrowMemphis/168594983199516

http://growmemphis.org/

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 (http://projectgreenfork.org/).  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).

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Find out more about the campus gardens at:

http://www.memphis.edu/bluegoesgreen/tigursgarden.php

https://www.facebook.com/tigursurbangarden

http://www.memphis.edu/suapp/docs/hcdinterimreport2013to2014.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1414479138773308/

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

http://ediblememphis.com/farmers-markets/

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