The month of October kickstarts Health Literacy Month, aligning with the agenda of the Queens College Hillel to tackle food insecurity and raise cognizance of wellness. Despite it not being underscored heavily, it is a month that highlights the health of all people, aiming to teach people how to protect their health, address existing health concerns, and learn to take preventative measures to ensure one’s well-being.
QC Hillel’s new program called the Kosher Grocery Program started in 2022 with the purpose of bringing attention to food insecurity and the overall wellness of peers. Emily “Em” Riveles, a licensed clinical social worker who works as the director of wellness, helped launch the Service Engagement Internship (SEI) to call attention to this grocery program and matters at stake.
The SEI program, hosted by the QC Hillel, aims to unite students on the topic of wellness, since food insecurity is one of the major points of physical health. SEI’s interns are tasked with assisting in assembling the pantry areas, raising awareness through creative outlets on myriad platforms, and even hosting their own events that are linked to their specific focus on wellness.
While it aims to help students address the problem of food insecurity, it also aims to assist conjoined Jewish learning, interfaith reflections, and wellness to better aid the diverse community on campus.
The battles of wellness became apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the New York City region. Ms. Riveles and Helenie Rudich, an intern of the program, spoke to The Knight News about their efforts to increase access to food and wellness.
Ms. Riveles stated that, “Getting help can be stigmatized, we weren’t sure if many students would sign up, but we ended up serving seventy individual students last year, and because we feed their families, we ended up distributing three hundred bags of groceries.”
She also highlighted that the SEI group is working with MetCouncil and Commonpoint Queens to ensure that students can gain access to foods that fit their dietary restrictions. Work is being done in numerous ways, by even helping appeal to students who eat diets with different restrictions, such as a Halal diet.
The interns are tasked with participating ten times a year, with their services based on getting the community involved in activities that can help students see the importance of wellness values. Helenie Rudich, a junior majoring in Design at QC who is an intern for the program spoke to The Knight News, emphasizing how the agendas could be met in fun and supportive ways.
“The events that we do are volunteer-oriented, so an example of this could be volunteering at an animal shelter,” Rudich said. Though it seems arbitrary how these topics can help address wellness and food insecurity, the answer lies in the coordination of events and how interns choose to engage their peers.
She furthered her interests in women’s health as well, as both topics relate to wellness and would be aimed at helping students receive a networking opportunity, and a chance to embrace wellness and learn more about how to tackle food insecurity.
This program creates a safe platform for peers of all origins to find themselves and safeguard their health, food security is the pivotal starting point. As Health Literacy Month sets in this month, it is a time to reflect on the wellness of the Queens College community, and the SEI program and peers are staying around to address this ongoing battle.