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Bills Left Tackle Dion Dawkins Gives Back at Community Health Fair at D'Youville University

May 5, 2023
Crowd in front of the Hub
Dion Dawkins addresses the crowd in front of the Hub

Article by: Katherine Fitzgerald, Buffalo News

A light drizzle on Wednesday couldn’t stop Buffalo Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins from making new friends in the parking lot.

Students posing with Dion Dawkins

Dawkins was at a community health fair at D’Youville University’s Health Professions Hub. The event was to highlight a number of no-cost public services available to students and the surrounding community, including the Food Farmacy. There were free health screenings, educational stations, cooking demonstrations and a free hot meal.

Dawkins finds plenty of ways to give back to the community through his foundation, Dion’s Dreamers. The Bills’ 2022 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, Dawkins spent some time Wednesday encouraging people at the event to take advantage of the resources right in their neighborhood. Dawkins and his foundation worked with UnitedHealthcare to sponsor the event.

students in front of united healthcare van

“With my career and my life, health is one of the biggest things,” Dawkins said to the crowd. “You have to be healthy to play football, you have to be healthy to smile and be happy and give off positive energy.”

The Food Farmacy started in October 2021, through a partnership between D’Youville, Catholic Health and FeedMore WNY. It is funded in part from a two-year grant from UnitedHealthcare, through their Empowering Health initiative launched in 2018.

women with food farmacy shirt

The Food Farmacy is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and during that time, people can get a three-day supply of healthy food (twice per month), counseling with a registered dietitian, health screenings and cooking demonstrations.

Speaking at Wednesday’s event, Joyce Markiewicz, Executive Vice President/Chief Business Development Officer for Catholic Health, said that the impact of the program has been clear.

“I'm proud to report that over the last 18 months, the Food Farmacy has provided 58,416 pounds of food to 1,098 members of this community,” she said.

While there were a number of different stations at the event, Dawkins was most excited about the focus on food.

“I think anytime somebody can get food and be able to feed their family is the ultimate win, because food is expensive, and healthy food is expensive,” Dawkins said. “So, with them being able to get food to bring home, it's a win-win. … Now, they're also helping somebody at home. So, it's a times two, times three, times four thing – from one person making a choice of coming here today.”

As Buffalo nears the anniversary of a racist mass shooting at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue, there is an ongoing focus on providing additional resources to people living in food deserts, or places with limited access to affordable and healthy foods.

Farm Market truck

Junior Harewood, CEO of Employee and Individual Plans for UnitedHealthcare of New York, noted how social and economic factors have a heavy impact on people as they try to eat better.

“For a lot of folks, they want to be healthy,” Harewood said. “But a lot of times, that food, that access to fresh fruit is not available to them. And then, you have the other offers (that) are a lot cheaper. So, if we can bring fresh food at a reasonable or no costs, it just helps the community in general.”

Harewood said that sometimes if someone grows up in an environment that is not food secure, they may fall back on the type of diet they were used to as a kid. Education is a big component. A person’s supplies also matter, and attendees could get crock pots at the event.

chef with dion dawkins

“It's kind of changing that the trend of that cycle, and (getting) people educated,” Harewood said. “And sometimes, just awareness is enough for people to kind of get on that path of eating healthy foods.”

chef steve foreman in dlish

Chef Steve Forman, the owner of Thyme ‘N Honey, gave cooking lessons inside the building, explaining the reasoning behind each step as he made his coconut and ginger chicken ragu.

Further down the hall, Catholic Heath had a station where people could get their carotid arteries screened with a quick ultrasound. Upstairs, there was a foot scan that could tell participants more about their spinal alignment. Everyone who came through got a “Passport to Wellness,” where they could get stamps at each station.

Offensive linemen David Quessenberry, Greg Mancz, Ryan Van Denmark and Alec Anderson were in attendance. Dawkins said it “means everything” to see his teammates, particularly from the offensive line, come out to support the event, and to do so without much prodding.

“I literally just put it in a group message and my guys came,” Dawkins said. “They just popped up, no questions asked. So, it's definitely a nice thing.”

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