Message from the Founder
I have always been passionate about health and serving my community. After working with several non-profit organizations, I felt I could have a much greater impact beyond being a volunteer. Last summer, I was honored to participate in a breast cancer research project through the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy. My experience at UPMC Hillman exposed me to ways in which UPMC Hillman collaborates with organizations that are focused on medically underserved populations and educates the public on unmet cancer-related needs in order to improve public health outcomes.
Following on that experience, I researched ways to help the public health in Allegheny County and in surrounding communities. I learned that while vitamins and supplements are distributed to underdeveloped countries, there is very little being done to address such needs locally. I founded Vitamin Alliance in order to partner with existing organizations such as community food banks and women’s shelters to provide much needed vitamins and supplements to children, adults and senior citizens. Vitamin Alliance’s mission does not end with fundraising, collection drives and vitamin distribution. Another part of its mission is to educate and expand the scope of already existing supplement programs to included vitamins.
Please join me in that effort!
The Effects of Malnutrition and Food Insecurity
Malnutrition and food insecurity are global problems. According to the United Nations, over 820 million people are undernourished globally. That number is nearly impossible to fathom, but it does not just exist in theory; rather, many of these people live in our own communities in the United States. They are our neighbors.
Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Malnutrition and food insecurity plague Pittsburgh in greater percentages than in Allegheny County or even in Pennsylvania. In 2017, the overall food insecurity rate in Pittsburgh was 16.7% (19.9% among children) as compared to 13.1% (16.3% among children) in Allegheny County and 12% (and 16.4% among children) in Pennsylvania.
The City of Pittsburgh’s current estimates that 21.4%, or 1 in 5 Pittsburghers, are food insecure. Among similarly sized cities, a 2013 Report from Just Harvest states, “Pittsburgh has the highest percentage of people” residing in so-called food deserts.
USDA defines a food desert as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.
And while food insecurity can exist outside of food deserts, there is considerable overlap between Pittsburgh’s food deserts and food insecure communities.
Food insecurity can lead to malnutrition and an increased risk of health issues. According to the World Health Organization, poor nutrition can lead to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Improving nutrition will help to create the necessary foundation to break the cycles of poverty and nutrition.
Although vitamins cannot replace healthy, fulfilling food, vitamins will lessen the impact of malnutrition and food insecurity by supplementing meals with essential vitamins that individuals lack in their diets. The AARP recommends that adults and seniors over the age of 50 supplement their diet with vitamins as hormonal changes make it more difficult to hit the target from nutrients from fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed foods.