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FoodShare: A Community Engaged Medicine Partnership with Furman


In higher education, the focus often extends beyond the classroom, and Furman embraces this philosophy. One remarkable program offered by Furman University is the Master of Science in Community Engaged Medicine (MSCEM), which takes a human-centered approach to medicine. In a recent episode of the “Go Further” podcast, we had the privilege of speaking with MSCEM alumnae Tholia Peoples and Meredith Foster, as well as the program director, Anna Baumgartner, who shed light on the incredible impact this program has had on both the students and the community.

One of the core components of the MSCEM program is its community medicine fieldwork course. Students are not just passive observers; they become active participants, serving as integral members of community organizations. Peoples and Foster were partnered with FoodShare, an affordable fresh produce program dedicated to providing under-resourced populations access to fresh produce. FoodShare strategically places locations in communities that are food insecure, making a tangible difference in people’s lives.

The partnership between MSCEM students and FoodShare goes beyond volunteering. These students are essentially treated as additional staff members, contributing 12 to 15 hours per week to the organization. They work closely with the customers, getting to know them by name and investing in their well-being. Peoples highlighted the diverse range of tasks she and her peers were involved in, from answering hotline calls to placing orders, all while developing meaningful relationships with the community they served.

Tholia Peoples (Right) and Meredith Foster (Left) participating in their fieldwork at FoodShare.

For Peoples, this experience was eye-opening. She gained a deep understanding of the social determinants of health, allowing her to see firsthand the challenges faced by people in food-insecure areas. Peoples plans to take this knowledge to medical school and, eventually, hopes to open her own practice, where she can make a strong impact on the health of her patients.

Foster also had a transformative experience working with FoodShare. Interacting with customers offered her a refreshing break from the classroom and research aspects of the program. She emphasized the importance of providing people in need with access to quality produce, as this can significantly influence their health outcomes. Foster now plans to attend medical school and has aspirations of becoming a dermatologist.

Both Peoples and Foster shared how their fieldwork experiences allowed them to acknowledge and reflect on their biases. This newfound awareness has empowered them to advocate for individuals in need of quality produce. The networking opportunities provided through the program were invaluable, connecting them with mentors and peers who were eager to support their professional growth.

Baumgartner explained that FoodShare has become an integral part of the Greenville, SC, healthcare system. This is particularly beneficial for those who might not have the resources to access quality produce from typical grocery stores. Hidden hunger is a real issue in America, where individuals may not appear starving on the street, but they lack access to nutritious food. FoodShare’s mission is to bridge this gap and make quality produce accessible to those in need.

Meredith Foster speaking at her spring 2023 hooding ceremony.

If this glimpse into the MSCEM program’s partnership with FoodShare has piqued your interest, listen to the full “FoodShare – Community Engaged Medicine Partnership” episode on our “Go Further” podcast. Gain deeper insights into the incredible stories and experiences of Tholia Peoples, Meredith Foster, and Anna Baumgartner.

Are you inspired by the meaningful work of Furman’s MSCEM program? Take the next step and APPLY for the MSCEM program at Furman University, where medicine meets humanity. Your journey to making a significant impact on communities and individuals in need begins here.