2009-09-25 / School News

Eat Smart New York Participants Graduate

Graduates at a ceremony held recently at Far Rockaway Cathedral on Brunswick Avenue. Graduates at a ceremony held recently at Far Rockaway Cathedral on Brunswick Avenue. On graduation day, a group of unique students in Queens did not espouse their plans for changing the whole world, but did say they now had the tools to change their own lives. For the 47 graduates of Cornell University Cooperative Extension NYC's Eat Smart New York (ESNY) nutrition workshop series, the future is all about applying what they learned, to eat well and be healthier.

An emotional and joyous ceremony was held recently at Far Rockaway Cathedral on Brunswick Avenue to recognize the participants' achievements, award certificates and share stories of overcoming challenges.

The event was hosted by Cornell University Cooperative Extension in New York City Nutrition and Health Program Leader Carol Parker Duncanson, and was attended by graduates - adults, adults with developmental disabilities, and senior citizens - from four eight-week classes at the Far Rockaway Cathedral, St. Gertrude's Church, and the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. Alex Schwartz, community liaison for Councilman James Sanders Jr., gave encouraging remarks and congratulations to the gathering.

Sharon Schinnery, of Far Rockaway, is the Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC community educator who taught the students nutrition practices, food safety, food resource management and physical activity. She was delighted to see the journey many had made from lacking nutrition knowledge to becoming smart shoppers and cooks who read food labels and look for bargains.

"In the beginning, it was a fight to get them to give up soda," said Schinnery. But interactive demonstrations about sugar content in drinks got many of the students to change their tune." Sylvia Harris, a graduate, said she lost 10 pounds after Schinnery "showed me the amount of sugar in my iced tea" and switched to water instead.

Often the students talked of learning where their nutrition and health knowledge was lacking. One woman said that, on starting the Cornell class, she knew about food and knew how to eat, but did not know enough about fat, salt and sugar. Now, she is "on the road to wellness" and is proud of the weight she has lost.

For older participants, food budgeting was noted as a great concern. Many expressed their gratitude for learning how to shop wisely for quality food with more than a few saying that the "prepare a family meal for $20" activity had an impact on how they shop.

Throughout the learning process, the students said, they were driven forward by the knowledge that they were improving their lives. "When you know better, you do better. We know better, and we are doing better," said Billeesha Brown, a graduate from Jamaica, Queens.

The Nutrition & Health program is funded through the federal Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which helps low income families, seniors and young people make sound nutrition and health choices.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension in New York City is a research-based educational organization that adapts to the evolving needs of communities, families, and individuals by engaging them in experiential learning opportunities that are based in research.

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