FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: SOCKs Trainee Leads Project to Provide Low-Income Patients with Fresh Produce

Catie Havemann is a SOCKs research trainee and Vanderbilt medical student.

But more than that, she's passionate about helping underprivileged populations.

During the spring 2018 semester, Havemann co-facilitated a partnership that had Vanderbilt students making weekly deliveries of produce to patients who needed help and had limited access to healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables.

The partnership connected the Shade Tree Clinic, a free health clinic run by Vanderbilt students, with the Nashville Food Project, a nonprofit that works to alleviate hunger.

The Shade Tree Clinic serves as the primary care home for approximately 400 uninsured and underinsured individuals.

"Many of our patients have diet-modifiable diseases like hypertension and diabetes, and are also challenged with poor access to fresh produce," said Havemann. "We wanted to come up with a project that would be mutually meaningful for both the clinic and the volunteers, and by doing so build a high-quality volunteer experience." 

Havemann and her co-facilitator, Vanderbilt medical student Nic Baddour, called the service-learning program the Shade Tree Clinic Service Learning Project. Every week, students working in the Shade Tree Clinic made deliveries of fresh produce to between four and eight patients. Havemann and Baddour mentored the students who made deliveries.

"We paired the service component with shadowing and observation hours at Shade Tree, which is a valuable learning opportunity for students, and an important component of an application to jobs or health professions programs," Havemann said. 

The project served patients living in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Nashville. Havemann said part of the project’s aim was to build the community partnership between the Shade Tree Clinic and the Nashville Food Project, as the two organizations serve similar populations.

"For me, the value of a program like this is actually two-fold," Havemann said. "Addressing health disparities is one of the reasons I chose to go into medicine in the first place, and I think it's very humanizing to look at food as part of medicine and to view that as an important service to our patients....I actually see this program as bridging the gap between two needs -- the needs of our patients, and the needs of students who are finding their way to work that resonates for them."

Vanderbilt students participating in the service project included Ashley Nmoh, Chloe Wilks, Ashvin Antony, Roberta (Birdie) Hutton, Nitya Venkat, Jonathan Amaro-Barron, and Aine Muhumuzza.