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Crockpots will Help Address Food Insecurity in Merrimack Valley

Submitted by on December 18, 2018 – 9:40 pm

Students in Northern Essex Community College Professor Jacqueline Dick’s Introduction to Public Health course addressed food insecurity in the Merrimack Valley this semester, collecting close to 100 new crockpots to donate to needy local residents along with a crockpot cookbook the class created.

The project was a service-learning project, designed to connect community service with the course curriculum.

“This is the first time we did this project, and I’m thrilled with the results,” said Dick.  “The students were truly engaged.”

Students in this course study assessment, policy development, and assurance, said Dick.  They were asked to research food insecurity in the Merrimack Valley; create an answer (access to crockpots and healthy, affordable recipes); and develop assurances (collecting crockpot donations and screening recipes).

The 31 students reached out to family, friends, and employers and raised $1,500 plus donated crockpots.  Many of the recipes in the cookbook were their own family favorites, including Spanish and Asian recipes, and they were all screened for affordability and nutritional value.  Some of the favorites include Crockpot-Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies, Crockpot-Spanish Chicken, and Crockpot-Beef and Broccoli.

Student Jennifer Lucena of Chelmsford, a public health major, said “I liked being part of a grassroots movement.  I’m hoping these crockpots will benefit families who work long hours and can now come home to a home-cooked meal.”

The crockpots and recipe books will be distributed to 10 nonprofits from across the Merrimack Valley who will make sure they get in the hands of those who need them.

Somebody Cares, a nonprofit in Haverhill, will give 10 of the crockpots to students in a “tween” cooking class.  The tweens will learn how to cook a meal and then bring it home to their families in their new crockpot.  Students from the class have been invited to assist in that event in January.

Northern Essex offers a community health worker certificate which transfers to the associate degree in public health.  Both programs are convenient for students who are working or have other responsibilities and appreciate the hybrid format.  Students come to class one or two evenings a week and complete additional work online.  Both the certificate and the associate degree require an internship during the spring semester of one day a week for 15 weeks.

For more information, contact Dick at or 978 655-5875.