Tag Archives: social work

Tacos, Ice Cream, and Massages

I’m really trying to slow down and enjoy my last few days before I start work on Monday, and the past couple days have been great. Yesterday I slept in and spent the morning reading and working the blog. Then I met up with my grad school friends Brittany and Caroline for lunch at NANATACO

. Nanataco

I got the lunch special, which was two tacos, rice, and beans. I chose the rotisserie chicken and garlic beef as my taco meats. I was having so much fun catching up with Brittany and Caroline that I completely forgot to get a picture of the food.


I forgot to take a picture of my food. Whoops! Here’s an example lunch special though. (Source: indyweek.com)

It was delicious though, and I liked the laid back atmosphere. NANATACO is quite popular. Parking is tough, but we didn’t have to wait in line to order very long at all. After lunch, we went to another popular place in downtown Durham called The Parlour.


My lovely dates for the afternoon. 🙂

I’m an ice cream addict, so I was pumped to finally try out The Parlour. People always talk about it, and it lived up to the hype. Brittany and Caroline got Vietnamese coffee, and I got tiramisu. Yes, that’s right. Tiramisu ice cream!! My two favorite desserts together as one. *Swoon.* It was heavenly.


We had a great time swapping stories and talking about graduation and the future. All three of us tend to work with people who are sick and/or dying, and it’s nice to talk to people who understand why I love that kind of work.  We also decided that we will have enough crazy social work stories between us to write a book someday.


Brittany and I showing off our ice cream.

Brittany, who I sometimes refer to as the ghost Christmas future, is also married to a future doctor. Her husband just graduated, too, and they are heading to Milwaukee for his residency. I will miss her dearly, but I know we’ll keep sharing our crazy stories from afar. Plus, who knows where Derek and I will end up in two years for his residency? I’m glad to know that I’ll have a friend in the midwest

. bomernormalheart

Last night Derek and I watched the movie The Normal Heart on HBO. Have you heard about it yet? It’s based on Larry Kramer’s play of the same name, and it’s about the beginning of the AIDS crisis in New York City. It was a compelling movie, and the acting is excellent. As this NPR article states, The Normal Heart shows a piece of history that many people in my generation have never learned about. I highly recommend watching it if you have HBO or HBO GO.

Today I was really productive around the house. I put the laundry away, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the kitchen, etc. I love the feeling of getting all of those necessary chores done. The highlight of the day was finally using the Groupon for a 60 minute massage at Flawless Day Spa that Derek gave me for my birthday back in February. It was wonderful! I’ve never had a professional massage before, and I absolutely loved it. I feel so relaxed. If you’re in the Chapel Hill/Durham area, I would definitely recommend Flawless. They were nothing but professional and kind. In the afternoon, I was also able to fit in a run before going to dinner with some of my friends from college. Overall, it was another awesome day.

Last, but not least, our wedding pictures are FINALLY ready!! I’m so excited to see them tomorrow. Be on the lookout for a wedding recap soon!


Food Deserts and Swamps {Social Justice Issue}

Though I often write about food and recipes, you read that correctly; I’m writing about food deserts, not dessert. I’m sorry to disappoint if you came here looking for delicious sweet treats. Perhaps I’ll make a dessert post soon. 🙂

I love reading healthy living blogs and food blogs, and there is a vast amount of valuable information about how to live a healthy life. However, among the debates about organic foods and Crossfit, there is little discussion about people who do not have access to the tools and foods necessary for a healthy lifestyle. I say this not to trivialize typical blog topics (that’s mostly what I write about, too) but to suggest that there is room for broader discussion of healthy living challenges that most bloggers, myself included, do not usually face. My goal with this post and future social justice posts is to provide information and encourage people to contribute to change in their communities if the topic is meaningful to them.

Food Deserts and Swamps

What is a food desert?

A food desert is an “area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly low income neighborhoods and communities” (US Department of Agriculture). (Low income areas are defined by more than 40% of the population having incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold.) Approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Food deserts are most common in urban and rural areas.

What is a food swamp?

Some people have suggested that food swamp is a better term for urban areas than food desert because there is usually food available, but it is not healthy, varied, or affordable (i.e. fast food and pricey, processed convenience store food).


Case Study #1- Emma and Charles Davis in Atlanta, Georgia 

If you read anything in this post, please take a look at this excerpt from Atlanta Magazine‘s feature “Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts” by Rebecca Burns:

If everything goes right—the buses are on time and they make every connection—a one-way trip from their apartment to the store takes two hours. But if there’s a glitch, and there’s almost always a glitch, they’re looking at three hours. Each way. By car it takes twenty minutes to cover the same route. There’s another Kroger, half the distance from the one on Moreland Avenue. But the bus to get there is crowded. “No one gives up a seat,” Charles said. “We have to stand the whole way.” Forget the store five miles north in Vinings Village; MARTA service ends at the border of Fulton and Cobb counties. 

I highly suggest reading the rest of the article. While statistics are useful and important, I think reading about the human side of food deserts is most powerful.

Case Study #2- Baltimore

The infographic below depicts the location of large grocery stores vs. small grocers, convenience stores, carry out, and fast food in three geographic areas of Baltimore, Maryland. The population, average income, and racial makeup of each area is included. The bottom of the infographic shows the number of deaths/10,000 people for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (which are all linked to diet) for each area. The last statistic is the potential years of life lost due to preventable disease.


Source: BryanConnor.com

The infographic illustrates the difference between food deserts and swamps, and it also demonstrates that low income areas and African Americans are most affected by food deserts/swamps.

What can we do about food deserts/swamps? 

The image below lists several strategies to help combat food deserts and swamps. I highlighted  a few of the solutions and included  examples that have been enacted.


Source: Dark Rye by Whole Foods Market

  • Grant funding to get affordable, fresh produce into local convenience stores. Minneapolis has the Healthy Corner Store Program to assist convenience stores with providing healthier food options.
  • Investment pools to provide grants and loans to grocers wanting to build or expand in underserved neighborhoods. The New Jersey Food Access Initiative is one example.
  • Non-profit grocery stores. Follow this link to see a video about the non-profit grocery store Fare and Square in Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • NYC Green Carts.


  • Volunteer programs that collect unsold food (especially fruits and vegetables) from farmers and food vendors to redistribute to low income communities where fresh food is not readily accessible. One example is Gather Baltimore.
  • Mobile  markets and produce vans such as Veggie Van in Durham.


Resources and Additional Information

Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences by USDA

Food Access and Food Deserts: Durham County, North Carolina by Associate Professor Stephan Schmidt of Cornell University

Food Empowerment Project – Great information about food deserts and health risks associated with poor diet.



It’s hard to believe that I graduated with my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree a little more than a week ago.


The big moment: receiving my master’s hood!

It took 2 years, more than 60 credit hours, and over 1,000 hours in the field to earn my degree. It wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of support along the way. My grandpa, aunt, and uncle all have advanced degrees. They showed me that the extra work pays off and always made sure I knew the value of education.


From left to right: my grandpa (who turns 90 in September!), my mom, my dad, Derek, me, my aunt, and my uncle.

My parents supported my dreams despite the fact that I was taking on debt and going into a difficult field where I will likely be underpaid and overworked. It means the world to me when I hear them proudly tell people that their daughter is a social worker.


My lovely parents.

My husband supported me each and everyday. Even though he is a busy, stressed out medical school student he always had time for my moments of panic over the workload, depressing stories from field, and angry rants about all the wrongs in the world. Whenever I needed it, he provided an optimistic perspective and reminded me why I chose social work in the first place.


My handsome husband Derek.

Finally, I could not have completed the degree without support from my amazing classmates. They challenged, inspired, and enlightened me. It is a privilege to know such hardworking, passionate people. Whenever I get frustrated with the way the world works I need to remember that there are wonderful people out there fighting to change the things for the better.


Some of my favorite ladies from school.

Particularly these two ladies. They are sweet, smart, down to earth, and never fail to make me laugh. My favorite memories from grad school involve cocktails and gallows humor. I will miss seeing them each week!


Thank you to everyone who supported me! Congratulations to my fellow 2014 graduates; we are finally social workers!

Ali Brown Pinkerton, MSW

It’s Gonna Be May {Fun Friday}

If you didn’t see my post from last Saturday, I am posting things that make me laugh or smile every Friday. It is my way of separating myself from my work and transitioning into the weekend. Right now it’s not much of a transition since I’m finished with school and don’t start work until May 19th, but I want to get into the habit of doing it. I also hope that it will make someone else smile, especially if it’s been a rough week.


I keep seeing this lovely picture of JT floating around on Facebook, and it cracked me up. If your wondering what the heck this is referring to, it’s from this NSYNC song.


I shared this with my friends on Facebook already, but I found a really neat story/cookbook when I was browsing reddit. Leanne Brown, a grad student at NYU, created a cookbook called Good and Cheap. It is “a collection of recipes for folks with limited income, particularly those on SNAP benefits (formerly the Food Stamp program).” It’s free, and it’s made for those trying to live on $4/day. Delicious food AND social justice?!? I’m in love.

For all of the Harry Potter/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings people out there, you may enjoy this video. The power of magic is pitted against the force. What’s not to love? The end is the best part, so make sure to watch it all the way through.

Finally, I can’t remember where I saw this, but it makes me laugh and sums up how I feel right now as a graduate starting my first job. I know it’s not entirely true, but it’s how I feel sometimes.



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