Just blocks from the Moscone Convention Center, scores of homeless and low-income residents line up daily for a free meal. Yesterday, members of APHA's Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section helped serve some of those meals as part of their second annual community action event.
“Especially for public health, I think it’s actually really integral to see the community,” said Section member Andrea Lee, who volunteered at San Francisco's St. Anthony’s Foundation, which serves 2,500 free meals daily. “We’re learning all these theories and research practices, and sometimes you feel really disconnected.”
As he prepped lunch trays at St. Anthony’s, Section Policy Chair Joe Schuchter said he hoped other APHA members would take some time to visit the city's Tenderloin District.
“I think if people go to the conference and they don’t go to this neighborhood, they missed something,” he said.
Continuing a tradition they started with last year’s APHA Annual Meeting in D.C., Section members volunteered at two local organizations and conducted a walking audit in the Tenderloin. During the audit, they enjoyed the wide, easily navigable sidewalks so common across the city as well as a plethora of unique and eye-pleasing architecture. Yet a lack of benches left many people with no place to sit. The neighborhood is home to 46 corner stores with offerings varying from the good to the bad. Some had doors plastered with cigarette ads and sold mostly sugary drinks, processed foods and alcohol, while others were stocked with fresh, reasonably priced produce. Across from a well-maintained playground, a business advertised nude dancers.
Overall, though, Section member Tony Delucia, who led the walking audit, said the neighborhood and San Francisco as a whole offer many lessons for those working to improve healthy food access and the built environment.
“This is a city that works,” he said. And despite “incredible” public health challenges such as preventing HIV infections and keeping pollution from overcoming the San Francisco Bay, “it seems like they rise to them rather than shirk them.”
Delucia and other Section members hope to conduct a community walking audit in each year's Annual Meeting location and continue building on lessons learned about evaluating safety, aesthetics and other measures.
“Our Section is really about the community,” said Section member Maurice Johnson Jr. “When we come to these cities, this is one of the ways we can embrace these communities instead of just sitting in meetings.”
Above from top to bottom, CHPPD Section members participate in a walking audit in the Tenderloin District, stop by a corner store to see what kinds of affordable, healthy options locals have access to and volunteer serving meals to low-income seniors at GLIDE. Photos by Donya Currie