Teaching nutrition

Think it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget? Amber Janes, student in Johnson County Community College’s dietary manager certificate program, would beg to differ.

In fact, Janes spent eight weeks teaching others how to eat more nutritiously for less money in a program supported by Harvesters Community Food Network and coordinated with the help of JCCC2theMax.

In Project Strength, participants find out how to cook and shop with nutrition in mind. At the end of each session, they’re given a bag of groceries not only as payment for their time but as a reinforcement of the good-food tenets taught in class.

Janes taught the very first program held at JCCC. The project was part of the internship component to her dietary manager certificate.

Before taking on her own class, Janes attended a two-day “train the trainer” session. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she said. “Shockingly enough, after the first day of training, I was so motivated by the curriculum that I spent the evening calling my mom, dad and my friends just to talk their ears off about my day.”

The learning high strengthened after the second day of training.

“By the morning of the second day, I was so ready to run out into my community and share all this nutritional information, all the tips and tricks to healthy eating and cooking, and to give away groceries, that I felt like I would burst out of my skin before the training class was over!” Janes said.

She had little time to recruit a class, but with the help of her mentor, Anna Page, assistant professor of dietary management, she had a handful of willing participants.

Dani Revord worked in restaurants for 15 years, but until she signed up for Project Strength, she had never taken a class that talked so in-depth about nutrition and healthy eating.

“We learned so much,” she said. “When to use fresh produce instead of frozen, how to cook to maintain the most nutrition, the (digestive) processes in our bodies that take place to make us healthy – all of it was really helpful, and it was presented so we could understand it.”

During Janes’ presentation on diabetes, one member of the group shared that her husband had died of diabetes-related complications, leaving her to raise three children alone.

“That was so great that she was willing to share like that,” Revord said. “We were a diverse group of people – not necessarily people you would surround yourself with, normally – but we became friends.”

That particular moment resonated with Janes, too. “During session three, I learned that one of my students was recently widowed. She lost her 41 year-old husband to undiagnosed, and therefore untreated, Type 2 diabetes. He checked into the hospital and was dead within the month.

“She shared all of this with us during session three because the focus of this particular session's curriculum was cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes,” Janes said.

“These three killers, along with cancer, are the leading causes of death for Americans today,” she said. “Session three was an emotional, but intensely informative session. Needless to say, my widowed mother of three really, really appreciated the groceries she received at the end of each session.”

Janes said she’s looking forward to continued crusades for nutrition.

“The general public is in desperate need of nutritional education and help,” she said. “It’s imperative that we arm ourselves with nutritional education and how-to advice so that we can make good diet and exercise choices.”