After a semester of collaboration between undergraduate nursing and management students, seven teams presented their innovative solutions to solve food insecurity and food deserts in the inaugural Nurse Think Tank. From food trucks to transportation services, students developed a wide range of projects focusing on both business and innovation, as well as improving patients’ health.
“Teaching students to think differently provides a foundation to not accept an answer but to find a solution for better outcomes,” said Kathy Shaffer, EdD, RN, MSN, CNE, associate dean for strategic initiatives and innovation in the Jefferson College of Nursing and a co-creator of Nurse Think Tank.
The winning team, Food Locker, developed the concept to put electronic, web-controlled, insulated, durable lockers in a food desert, such as the Frankford section of Philadelphia, to deliver fresh produce and create access to healthy food.
“Lockers are not new, but their idea in where to use it was,” Shaffer said. “They did extensive research on where it would be most feasible, make the biggest impact and solve a problem. Judges thought it could be piloted quickly.”
The team determined that a person using the locker would register online, select the produce offered and obtain nutritional information, as well as find healthy ways to cook or eat the produce. Once the items are selected, the user would receive an individualized computer-generated code. The person is then notified when the food is delivered to the locker and when the code expires to pick up the food.
Shaffer found that from these projects, students developed an understanding of project management, the business aspect of a nonprofit organization and the necessary deliverables to build a culture of health, rather than just solving a problem.
“They are our future providers, leaders and innovators,” Shaffer said. “Helping them feel empowered to tackle a huge problem, such as food desert/insecurities, fostered confidence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is a transferable skill all students need in this ever-changing world.”