Teaching Nutrition Education
When I decided that I would switch my career from Teaching to Nutrition, I had a feeling that the departure from teaching would not be a forever goodbye. I was right.
Last summer, at the very beginning of the nutrition graduate program I am in, I had the opportunity to help out at the Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) series through the Food As Medicine Institute. At the core of this program is the empowerment of others to take the reins of their health. This is accomplished by a series of classes that combines, in each class, hands-on cooking experiences with nutrition lessons. I can’t begin to tell you how much this experience with FAME meant to me. That summer with FAME showed me that I can still teach and help others on their own health journey through nutrition. That summer with FAME, a program that is meant to empower its participants, empowered me.
I stuck around FAME and the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) to learn from them in other ways, but that experience with the nutrition education aspect of FAMI was definitely a spark that was ignited. By continuing to work with the program and furthering my own education in nutrition, that spark turned into a flame and that fire needed an outlet.
In November, with a local plant-based chef from La Vida Veggie (Heather Solano), I co-presented my first class at a Natural Grocers grocery store for the local community and what an experience that was! I experienced several emotions that day from being a nervous wreck to worrying about how many people would show up to “Oh my gosh, we have 22 people in this kitchen; we can’t screw up!” Heather and I taught a full-on vegan Thanksgiving menu to those 22 guests who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the nutrition component just as much as the cooking and eating portions. The fire kept growing.
I remember washing the dishes after that vegan Thanksgiving class and feeling so elated about what I was just a part of. I went home that afternoon exhausted, but completely motivated to figure out how to again achieve that feeling of elation. It didn’t take me long to connect with two other local grocery store chains: New Seasons Market and Fred Meyer.
I just taught my first New Seasons Market class on Mindful Eating and what an experience that was. There was no cooking involved, but the health and wellness topic still managed to get a group of eight individuals to commute through the slushy roads from Portland’s melting snow and ice. I may have led this class, but it was more of a facilitation experience thanks to the wonderful conversations and participation of the individuals who were in the room. I have another Mindful Eating class scheduled at a New Seasons Market and I’m definitely looking forward to connecting with another group in an attempt to strengthen their and my own connection to food in a more nourishing way.
With Fred Meyer, I knew of a local store equipped with a kitchen space that they used for classes. You can probably guess what happened next…I met with the kitchen coordinator, we were both mutually interested in coordinating a class or multiple classes, and we scheduled the first one. I just taught that class a week ago (Jan. 21st) and again I had an amazing experience that was very different from the Natural Grocers class. At this class, the smaller group allowed for a completely hands-on cooking approach that had us all huddled and cooking together while learning about the nutrition and health benefits of 3 plant-based breakfast recipes and enjoying conversations about nutrition and health. The fire continued to burn.
I have more classes scheduled at these listed grocery stores and am currently planning a career that includes community nutrition education because of how inspired I am each time I conduct a class. Teaching at these stores and interacting with their customers has been a phenomenal experience. At a grocery store, you never know who to expect. It’s a wonderful place where different socioeconomic statuses, different levels of nutrition backgrounds, different health perspectives and experiences, and more, are all represented and can be present in the very room you are about to teach your class in. This is what community education is all about–bringing in and interacting with different persons and perspectives while teaching each other through your own questions and stories–and I’m grateful for these opportunities, but especially to FAME for igniting that initial spark.