Matthews Shares Nutritional Advice With Community
In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff recognizes Jessica Matthews.
By Judy Currin
Jessica Matthews’ participation in the Food Literacy Partners Program has not only fueled her interest in the field of nutrition, it has also given her the tools to help educate others about its benefits.
“Nutrition is such an evolving and controversial area that is linked to almost every aspect of total health,” said Matthews, a research technician in the department of internal medicine at the Brody School of Medicine.
“Working in the field of cardiology, the idea of good nutrition as a means to promote heart health is re-emphasized daily. This is especially true in Eastern North Carolina, where the occurrence of diabetes and heart disease is a growing concern.”
The Food Literacy Partners Program, said Matthews, aims to help educate and build awareness of healthy food selection, balanced diets and portion control.
The free, 20-hour course also emphasizes the benefits of physical activity.
Funded through a grant from the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation and co-sponsored by the ECU department of Family Medicine, the Nutrition and Physical Activity Partners, Pitt County Community Schools and ViQuest, program participants are encouraged to share their knowledge of nutrition through 20 hours of community service.
For her service hours, Matthews volunteered at a booth at the Pitt County Farmer’s Market, preparing recipes and samples of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables on Saturday mornings.
“While folks shop, we are on-hand to offer nutritional advice as well as tasty samples,” Matthews said.
Volunteers can also help at health fairs or conduct programs in their churches or schools.
Matthews also assisted in updating the “Eating Out in Greenville” web page on the BSOM Family Medicine website at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/fammed/resources/fpc.cfm.
The handout highlights healthy dishes from various local restaurants and, said Matthews, is a helpful guide for people who have trouble making “good” choices when eating out.
As a class participant, Matthews was given a BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator, waist tape measure, exercise band, nutrition reference book and pedometer to help track her fitness progress at home. She learned the importance of food prep safety, such as using a meat thermometer, and how to thoroughly sanitize work surfaces.
“As a result of the class, I have found it’s easier to make healthier food choices and have started keeping a food diary to track what I eat,” Matthews said. “I am also encouraged to follow the daily requirements laid out by the new Food Guide Pyramid which helps monitor portion sizes.”
Overall, Matthews said the Food Literacy Partners Program was educational and enjoyable.
“I would highly recommend the program to my co-workers, neighbors and members of the Greenville community,” she said.
“What a great way to serve others while also educating yourself.”