Nutrition Education Interactive Map

Before we continue with our “Nutrition Basics” series (next segment will be about digestion!), I wanted to share with our readers a wonderful resource that one of our AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators, Blair Borax, created.

Since becoming AmeriCorps members we have been asked many times to describe what it is we do during our service year. (This was explained in detail in our recent “Nutrition Education Program Highlights” blog series.) We also oftentimes get the question of where we host our classes and other programs. When I answer this question, I usually give a pretty general answer. Blair, however, took on the challenge to map out all of the past and current/upcoming classes that the Nutrition Education program at the Clark County Food Bank hosts in the community. These classes span over the course of at least four years of teaching in Clark County. We are still expanding our reach and making new partnerships each year! The more the community learns about what we do as nutrition educators, the more people we can help to make better choices in feeding themselves and their families.

fork The yellow fork and knife symbol are classes that we have had in the past.

starThe green star are classes that are current or upcoming.

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Click here to open up the Interactive Google Map and check out where it is we host our various nutrition education classes and programs.

To understand more about each of our classes featured on the map, you can read these past blog posts:

Cooking Matters (CM) and Cooking Matters at the Store (CMATS)

Growing Healthy Futures (GFH)

Student Nutrition and Cooking (SNAC)

Next week the digestion blog post will be up! We learned in our most recent post what the different types of nutrients are and why we need them. The digestion discussion will go into more detail about how our body breaks down and utilizes food. This really gets into the biology and chemistry of how our body and nutrients interact!


Nutrition Basics: What are Nutrients?

With the ending of our last blog post series, we are able to begin a new one! We hope you all enjoyed learning about each of our different Nutrition Education programs at the Clark County Food Bank. We will be sure to keep you all in the loop of what’s going on with our many classes and projects as the 2016 year begins. We will have many new Cooking MattersSNAC, and Growing Healthy Futures classes starting. We will also begin to host more events through the Healthy Pantry Project and hope to get the Seed to Supper program started. Like I said, a lot going on!!

This new series is going to focus on the basics of nutrition! This is information that we share with our clients in classes and some bonus information that is important to understanding why nutrition education fits into the mission of the Clark County Food Bank to alleviate hunger and its root causes.

This week is all about nutrients. Fundamentally, nutrition is a combination of chemistry and biology. With that in mind, nutrition can get pretty complex! No worries though; I won’t be teaching you about the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (although I found this cool website that will!). Instead, lets ask and answer the questions of:

  1. What are nutrients?
  2. Why do I need them?

What are nutrients?

Nutrients can be defined as “the substances in food that provides structural or functional components or energy to the body” (University of Utah). To take this concept a step further, we define what an essential nutrient is: a substance that must be obtained from the diet because the body cannot make it in sufficient quantity to meet its needs.

This definition talks about our diet. This use of the word diet refers to the foods that we ingest on a daily basis. There are five categories of nutrients that are considered essential to our body. A basic description is given for each nutrient along with quality food choices, which are better choices because they give our bodies what they need to be healthy.

  1. Carbohydrates: simple (sugars) and complex (starches and fiber). Quality carbohydrate foods include: minimally processed grains such as oats, whole grain breads and pasta, no sugar added dairy, fruits, and vegetables
  2. Protein: the building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. There are 9 amino acids that we must receive from foods. Quality protein sources are: low-fat animal products, such as eggs, fish, skinless poultry, non-fat cheeses and yogurts (especially Greek yogurt); non-animal protein includes beans, nuts, lentils, quinoa, seeds, dark leafy greens, and many other vegetables!
  3. Fat: the fat our bodies need is called unsaturated fat, especially a class of fats called the omega-3 fatty acids, which we must receive from our diet. Quality dietary fat is received by oils from vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, peanuts, and avocados.
  4. Vitamins and minerals: The vitamins our body needs are separated into two groups: Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; and water soluble vitamins C and vitamin B group. The minerals our body needs are also separated into two groups: macrominerals – calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur; and trace minerals – iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium. We receive many of our vitamins from a diet that has a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables as well as quality protein, grain, and diary sources.
  5. Water: the majority of our bodies is water, so it is definitely essential! Drinking water throughout the day and with meals will ensure that you stay hydrated. We also receive water from our food! Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. (Example: a 150 lb person should drink at least 75 ounces of water).

Now, to answer the even more important question of….

Why do I need nutrients?

We already established that these five categories of nutrients are essential to meet our body’s needs. Now to understand how each nutrient plays a critical role in healthy body function.

  1. Carbohydrates: the primary source of fuel for our bodies. They give us energy to complete our tasks and our brain energy to think and create! Quality carbohydrates give us lasting energy and help us stay full after eating.
  2. Protein: builds muscles and  organs; also repairs and replaces body tissue as we  grow and develop. Remember the amino acid building blocks I talked about? They are broken down from dietary proteins and are rebuilt into body tissues! How cool. Getting low-fat protein ensures we receive those amino acids without getting too many calories that our body cannot use.
  3. Fat: reserve of energy; keeps bones and joints well oiled; protects our organs like a cushion; helps in absorption of some vitamins. See, fat is very important! But fat does carry 2x the calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates, which is why we need to get the most quality fats we can! Unsaturated (good) fat also helps to lower “bad” cholesterol. Whereas saturated (bad) fat actually raises “bad” cholesterol and can lead to heart disease!
  4. Vitamins and Minerals: support bone health (Calcium and Vitamin D); prevent birth defects (Folic Acid); helps carry oxygen to the whole body by red blood cells (Iron); and so much more!! Each vitamin and mineral plays a very special function. Deficiency in any of them can have serious health effects, especially during prenatal and childhood development.
  5. Water: I already mentioned that it is the major component of our body. Water also helps carry nutrients to all parts of the body. So after our body has digested the carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals from food, water is there to take the nutrients to where they need to go in order to do their job!

That is a lot of information for one post! We made a little infrographic to help you visual learners. Feel free to save and share.

Essential Nutrients graphic

Nutrition information can get very confusing and complicated, but when it comes down to it we can always come back to the basics of nutrients to determine which foods we need to include in our diet to be healthy and happy.

In our next post we will cover a short anatomy and physiology lesson of how our food is digested! This will help us tie together how important it is we receive quality sources of food.


University of Utah, 2000. NetBiochem Nutrition.


Nutrition Education Program Highlight: SNAC (Student Nutrition and Cooking)

This is it! Our final Nutrition Education program highlight! It has been such a joy to share with you all what it is we do as Nutrition Educators at the Clark County Food Bank. We have been at CCFB for 3 months now (WOW!) and it has been so exciting to see how much progress and development has happened in this short length of time. A recap of our first quarter of classes:

  • 4 Cooking Matters classes, reaching at least 25 people – some of them being children as we started our very first Cooking Matters for Families class
  • 3 SNAC classes, reaching 19 children/teens
  • 3 gardening workshops, reaching 10 adults and 20 children
  • 4 Fall Fest events at Educational Opportunities for Children and Families (EOCF) Headstarts, reaching 47 adults and 45 children
  • 3 Cooking Matters at the Store classes with EOCF parents, reaching 16 adults
  • 7 Food Bank Fresh taste testings, reaching 606 households
  • 2 Healthy Pantry Project events, reaching 54 individuals
  • 5 other nutrition and cooking classes, reaching 17 teens

That totals to 253 individuals and 606 households served in 3 months!! And we still have a few more classes or events that will happen before December is over with!

I mentioned in the quarter recap a class called SNAC. This stands for Students Nutrition and Cooking. SNAC is a nutrition education curriculum that was created by the Clark County Food Bank to address the needs of teens to develop cooking skills and to learn about healthful eating. This program is a 6-week series that teaches the basics of nutrients and how our bodies use them while providing exciting, hands-on experiences in the kitchen. Christina Fortin is the AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator this year that is leading this program! Read below to see what she has to say about SNAC and where she hopes it goes this upcoming year.


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Students chopping fruit during a SNAC class

What drew you to focus on this program?

I’ve always enjoyed working with children whether it be babysitting, mentoring, or teaching. I like the relationships you can form with kids. They have this overwhelming youthfulness and their imagination is limitless. Kids have a notorious rep for being picky eaters but I think when they are in a learning environment that puts the cooking into their hands they are very willing to try new things.

What experience and/or knowledge do you bring to facilitating this program?

A handful of my previous jobs have been teaching children and I’ve enjoyed myself with the different groups. Coming from a nutrition background I have led community classes with young children and felt I was able to leave a strong impact with them.

Christina teaching a nutrition and cooking class at the Clark County Food Bank Learning Kitchen

How do you hope to improve and/or expand this program?

I’m looking to move the program forward by gearing it towards two different age groups in order to reach a wider range of kids. When the program was first created in-house the target age was middle school to high school. What we are finding now is a need for younger age group as well.

Additionally, I’m looking to offer three class series each quarter with new partners. Thus far we have established three new partner organizations where SNAC series will start in January.

In a year from now (post-AmeriCorps), how do you think working with this program will make you a more experienced and knowledgeable individual about the work you plan to pursue in the future?

Post-AmeriCorps I am hoping to continue on in public health teaching and facilitating nutrition education. Having the opportunity and space to teach and adapt a curriculum is great training for continuing on. Also having the ability to support the variety of programs that the Clark County Food Bank offers is allowing me to work with a wide age range – from preschoolers to adults.

Christina will also be working alongside Blair to lead the Growing Healthy Futures program teaching 3-5 year olds about nutrition and trying new foods and working in the garden. This program has grown exponentially from 3 partners to 7 over the past few months! These gals will have their hands full in the Spring.


Film Screening of “A Place at the Table”

A Place At The Table


On Friday, December 4th from 6-8PM the Clark County Food Bank will be hosting a film screening of the documentary “A Place at the Table” at Loowit Brewing (507 Columbia St., Vancouver WA).

This documentary examines what it looks like to be food insecure and then goes a step further to propose that food insecurity can be resolved by addressing one of its root causes: nutrition. Light refreshments will be served and the admission to the event is no cost! So bring a few friends, find a comfortable seat, and watch this film with us. At the end we will have a short discussion of the film content, specifically targeted at  how significant an impact nutrition can have on individuals who are hungry and malnourished.

Call (360) 693-0939 or email with any questions you may have!


Nutrition Education Program Highlight: Cooking Matters

We only have a couple more Nutrition Education Program Highlight blog posts left! This week is about our largest and oldest program, Cooking Matters. While all the Nutrition Educators have been teaching this class during the past few months, our Nutrition Educators Shaelie Harper (interviewed last week) and Shaili Parekh are leading these courses for the year. Don’t even ask how we happened to get two Shaelie/Shaili’s on the Nutrition Education team! Thankfully it doesn’t get too confusing.

Shaili shares with us about her experiences leading Cooking Matters so far and the plans she has for it in the upcoming year.


My program of focus is with Cooking Matters, a national program through the organization Share Our Strengths, whose main goal is to end childhood hunger. Cooking Matters is a 6-week course aimed to teach low-income individuals and families how to cook healthfully while on a budget.

What drew you to focus on this program?

Growing up, I taught myself to cook by watching cooking shows, doing my own researching, and through experimentation (more like lots of trial and error). I grew up loving to channel my creativity through cooking – and in turn I also learned how to adapt, how to be patient, and how to take risks. Although I grew up thinking I was going to be a chef, in college I learned more and more about our broken food system and how it is stacked up against families, making it so much cheaper and easier to eat poorly than to eat healthfully. So many people are never taught how to cook or how to read a nutrition label – things that are becoming more and more necessary to preventing diet-related diseases. For those who are struggling to make ends meet, cooking meals that are nutritious, within their budget, and well-received by their family members can feel like an impossible task. I realized from then on, that I wanted to share my passion for cooking with others in order to improve people’s quality of life. Our cooking classes are completely hands-on and also involve eating our creations together at the end. Because our classes are so fun, it serves as a great platform to engage participants in discussions about nutrition and budgeting. Learning how to cook and how to eat better are two very empowering things, and knowing that clients may use something they learned in class to improve their day to day lives is an amazing feeling.

What experience and/or knowledge do you bring to facilitating this program?

I received my Bachelors of Arts from Arizona State University in May of 2015. Having minored in Nutrition, I feel I have a good grasp on fundamental nutrition concepts. However, I believe that my main area of focus, Anthropology, has taught me so much about the cultural meaning that food can have for so many people and how to be sensitive to people’s unique relationships with food and cooking. In the past, I have taught nutrition classes and created curriculum aimed at newly arrived refugee women through a non-profit called Refugee Focus. There, I learned how to adapt the same nutrition lesson for people who came from very different backgrounds than one another. This skill is something I have found very useful to my current position since we also teach diverse groups of clients that all possess different skill sets.

A candid shot of Shaili P. as she was teaching a Cooking Matters class in the Clark County Food Bank Learning Kitchen.

How do you hope to improve and/or expand this program?

I hope to expand this program by building relationships with local agencies that already serve low-income populations in our community, especially our food pantries who interact directly with those who could benefit the most from classes.

In order to make our classes more accessible, I plan to start hosting more classes that are specifically catered to Spanish speakers, Diabetes patients, veterans, at-risk High Schoolers and other groups of people.

Additionally, I’d like to host more classes in areas of Clark County that don’t typically get reached, such as Salmon Creek, Battle Ground, Camas, etc. Something else we can do is train volunteers from other agencies to teach their own Cooking Matters classes, so we can collectively reach more people, thus having a bigger impact on our community.

I also hope to put systems in place to improve the attendance and retention rate of classes.

In a year from now (post-AmeriCorps), how do you think working with this program will make you a more experienced and knowledgeable individual about the work you plan to pursue in the future?

It’s difficult to describe every single thing I will gain from working to expand and improve this program this year, but I know that taking on this responsibility will help me grow in a number of ways. I hope that by the end, I will become even better at effectively engaging with people, explaining complicated nutrition concepts in a way that is easy to understand, meeting the unique needs of different groups of people, building lasting professional relationships, and being a leader in the community.

Members of a recent Cooking Matters class offered by the Clark County Food Bank Nutrition Education team

Nutrition Education Program Highlight: Upcoming program – Seed to Supper

This post continues the Nutrition Education Program highlight series we have shared for the past two weeks. AmeriCorps member and Nutrition Educator Shaelie Harper shares about a program called Seed to Supper. While the Clark County Food Bank Nutrition Education team has not yet begun to teach this curriculum, we are hopeful that in the spring (once the garden season begins again!) we will be able to share this wealth of knowledge with you all!

Also, a quick plugin: We have started to put up recipes on our Recipe Index page! This will be a great resource for our pantry leaders to share with clients, but also for our blog readers as they find themselves needing a nutritious, delicious, and budget friendly recipe!

seed to supper

What is your program of focus?

I will be focusing on implementing a new program called “Seed to Supper”, or a variation of it, that was started by Oregon Food Bank. The program will concentrate on teaching community members how to grow their own food on a budget.

What drew you to focus on this program?

I have a passion for agriculture and think that this program can help empower the population that we serve by giving people the knowledge and skills to grow their own food.  Gardening can be a useful tool (as well as a fun one!) for saving money. It is also a great way to get outdoors and reconnect with where your food comes from.

What experience and/or knowledge do you bring to facilitating this program?

I have taken several courses, including receiving my Permaculture Design Certification and an Urban Gardening Certification, as well as interning on a local farm, that has given me extensive experience with growing food. I will also be taking a Master Gardener course through Oregon State University as we start the Seed to Supper program, which will give me more knowledge on gardening in the Pacific Northwest specifically.  I also hold a B.S. in Nutritional Science and have a passion for cooking (and consuming) food, which will help to develop and implement the new cooking and food preservation aspect of the program.

Left to right: AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators Shaelie H. and Blair conducting a taste testing for kids at Heritage Farms
Left to right: AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators Shaelie H. and Blair conducting a taste testing for kids at Heritage Farms

How do you hope to improve and/or expand this program?

The original “Seed to Supper” program is a five week course where participants learn mainly about gardening techniques for 2 hours each week.  However, I would like to take the program a step further and teach the participants how to cook and preserve the food that they grow from their garden.  It will be a more comprehensive program and teach a larger range of skills.

In a year from now (post-AmeriCorps), how do you think working with this program will make you a more experienced and knowledgeable individual about the work you plan to pursue in the future?

Working with this program will give me a wealth of knowledge and experience with gardening in the Pacific Northwest that I do not currently have.  I think it will ultimately deepen my passion for working with my community by providing agricultural and nutrition education.  I would eventually like to own a farm and partner with a non-profit. Facilitating this program will take me one step closer to successfully achieving that dream.

Fruit Valley Community Garden (5)

Nutrition Education Program Highlight: Growing Healthy Futures

Last week we shared information about our Healthy Pantries Project program that AmeriCorps member and Nutrition Educator Lauren Cameron is working with for the 2015-2016 year. Healthy Pantries Project works one-on-one with the pantry leaders to encourage clients who receive food from the pantries to make healthy choices and know how to use the food they are receiving, especially that which may be unfamiliar. This interview post will be highlighting our Growing Healthy Futures Program that AmeriCorps member and Nutrition Educator Blair Borax will be working on to lead, develop, and grow over the next year.

GHF logo

What drew you to focus on this program?

I believe that teaching children and adults how they can eat healthy, where their food comes from, and how they can grow it themselves, can empower them to change their lives, their communities, and the world around them. Today, our education system does not teach the practical skills and knowledge that we all need in order to live healthy, productive, and responsible lives. In schools, we do not learn how to cook nutritious meals, how to manage our personal finances, how make or mend clothing, or how to grow our own food. Some of us are lucky enough to learn these skills from our parents or grandparents, but many of us, for various reasons, unfortunately no longer have this opportunity. We must return to an education system that provides the necessary life skills to create empowered, independent, and upstanding member of society.  The Growing Healthy Future program offers many of these skills, both to children at a very young age and to their parents who may not have learned them in school or at home.

Through the Growing Healthy Futures (GHF) program, I will be working with 3-5 year old children who attend EOCF (Educational Opportunities for Children and Families), ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program), or Headstart preschools, and their families. These partner organizations provide free preschool for children whose families are living under the poverty line in order to ensure that all children receive the quality education they need to succeed! The goal of the GHF program is to expose children to healthy fruits and vegetables at a young age, and engage their families in learning how to shop on a budget, cook healthy meals, and grow some of their own food. The garden is a wonderful place to spend time with kids, engaging them in the world around us, and encouraging them to be a part of the process of growing their own food. Ron Finley, urban community gardener of L.A. Green Grounds and big inspiration to me, once said, “If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes” (TED, 2013).

This phrase is as simple as it is true. It is incredible what kids will eat if they are a part of the process. They feel proud of themselves and excited to enjoy their finished product! In addition to exposing kids and their families to fresh, healthy, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, many studies have proven that gardening itself can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Gardening can be a fantastic source of calorie-burning aerobic exercise which reduces risk of stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis and other life threatening diseases. Spending time outside, connecting with nature and digging in the dirt can be a magnificent outlet for stress relief, mood enhancement, and even meditation. I am so excited to be able to open this door for education, wellness, and sustainability to young children and their families in the Clark County community this year.

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Blair teaching children from how to plant a winter cover crop at the Putting the Beds to Bed Workshop

What experience and/or knowledge do you bring to facilitating this program?

Last year, I lived and worked on an organic farm called Blackbird Farm in Northern California, facilitating an educational program for at-risk high school students. We taught over 300 students about organic farming, sustainable living, and healthy eating, and mentored them through emotional development and character building activities. Through this experience, I have seen how transformative it can be for youth to get their hands dirty in the garden, to be a part of growing their own food, to be listened to, cared for, and supported, and to be given the opportunity to take their health and their futures back into their own hands. Many of our students returned home from the 11-day program to begin making healthier food choices, drinking more water, exercising more frequently, and possessing a more positive outlook for their futures. Some students even went home to plant their own gardens, start their own composts, build their own greenhouses, and educate their friends and families about how and why they can and should do the same! I really enjoyed being able to empower young adults to make positive changes in their health, wellbeing, and lifestyles.

In addition to my experience teaching and mentoring high school students at Blackbird Farm last year, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from the Honors College of the University of Vermont, and a Permaculture Design Certification from the Center for Creative Ecology in Israel. Although, I am still learning new things every day about growing food organically and in the permaculture way, I am excited to share what I know with the EOCF, ECEAP, and Head Start families of Clark County so that they too, can make positive changes in their own health and wellbeing, as well as that of their children and their communities.

How do you hope to improve and/or expand this program?

This year, we will be growing and changing the program significantly. So far, we have already expanded the program from three to six partner sites in the community, doubling our reach! We will be working with Family Center, 99th Street, Ellsworth, St. Johns, Sifton and Fruit Valley EOCF sites. Fellow AmeriCorps member Christina and I will be visiting each classroom twice a month to teach and play with the kiddos, incorporating fruit and veggie taste testing, MyPlate nutrition lessons, and gardening and composting activities! For families, we will be offering a free 6-week beginner gardening course that will offer all of the skills and knowledge someone might need to begin growing their own food. Participants will be provided a community garden plot for their family in a garden near them for the season, cost free.

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In a year from now (post-AmeriCorps), how do you think working with this program will make you a more experienced and knowledgeable individual about the work you plan to pursue in the future?

In the future, I hope to pursue organic farming and gardening as a tool for sustainable food production, education, and community building. Working to run, build, and develop the Growing Healthy Futures program throughout my AmeriCorps term this year will give me exactly the experience, knowledge, and skills that I will need as I pursue my vision of a sustainable, socially just, and happy future on planet Earth.

We will continue our program highlight series next week! Check back in to learn about the Nutrition Education classes we are offering at the food bank and reaching out into the community!

Nutrition Education Program Highlight: Healthy Pantry Project

A big thank you to everyone who read our last post about “Giving up a year of your life“. We were really pleased to hear the feedback, and even received a response from the Director of the WA Service Corps, Debbie Aoki! We appreciated how she commented that AmeriCorps is not a “giving up” but an “investing in” our futures and those that we serve. We also appreciated that she pointed out that the living stipend for AmeriCorps gives us the opportunity to support ourselves while understanding the challenges that many of our clients face. These comments encompass the message we wanted to share; that we are passionate about what we are doing and appreciate this opportunity no matter the challenges we face.

October has been a crazy, busy month for the Nutrition Education team! We started 3 Cooking Matters classes, 3 SNAC classes, helped out with our first Clark County Food Bank fundraiser (Taste & See), and have began planning events for the Growing Healthy Futures and Healthy Pantry Project programs. At this moment you might be asking yourself, “What in the world are all these programs!?!”. While we do have some basic information on our website, we know there is so much more you all would like to know! Since each of the new Nutrition Educators have chosen a program to focus on for the next year, we would like to share a little bit with you all about why we chose our respective programs and the goals we hope to achieve. This will be done in a series of posts, interview style. First, is Nutrition Educator Lauren Cameron, with the Healthy Pantry Project.


The Healthy Pantry Project, HPP, is a program sponsored by the Clark County Food Bank’s Nutrition Education team. In partnership with Clark County Food Bank’s mission of “Alleviating Hunger and Its Root Causes,” the goals of HPP are to provide quality, appropriate, and understandable nutrition focused messages to members of our community who visit partnering pantries.

What drew you to focus on this program?

The Healthy Pantry Project intrigued me because I get to work with our food pantry leaders to encourage clients to make more health conscious decisions when they receive their food. I am currently enrolled in an online course offered by the University of California designed by a group of Dietitians and Public Health researchers called “Developing a Food Bank Nutrition Policy.” In this course I am learning more about the challenges that food insecure individuals face in procuring nutritious food. One of the segments I completed discussed why it is important for food banks to create a nutrition policy and how Nutrition Educators and other health or food bank professionals can be advocates for such programs. In the discussion of this information, there were several points that other participants in the course brought up that I believe encompass why it is I chose to focus on the Healthy Pantry Project program. A few of them were:

“How can our families thrive if the food we provide is not nutritious?”

“If our clients are healthier, they will feel better and may cope with daily struggles in a more positive way.”

“We need to erase the disconnect between what we teach people about food and health and what they see at their food pantry.”

“We may be the only place individuals can receive nutritionally dense foods.”

What experience and/or knowledge do you bring to facilitating this program?

I think I bring passion more than anything else. I am passionate about the ability to influence an individual’s decision making for foods that will make them feel and perform better. The education and experience I have with Nutrition is richer in the social sciences than the hard sciences. To expand on this, I have studied how our food system functions and issues within that system, how food connects individuals on a social level, and other studies within the realm of social understanding of food. I have less knowledge concerning the nutrients of food, but this is something that I want to study more as I go to school for dietetics (in the future).

How do you hope to improve and/or expand this program?

The Healthy Pantry Project is still in its early stages. It is a program that was developed in 2013 by the Clark County Food Bank, modeled after the “Healthy Pantry Initiative” program of the Oregon Food Bank. Since then, a few pantries in Clark County have become involved and we have been able to set up signage that promote healthy choices, have taste testing on-site at the food pantries, and encourage nutrition education to clients. My current goal is to hear back from the current pantries that are involved with this program and to see how it is and is not working. Some of my questions for them will concern how effective the feel the signage, taste testings, and other resources have been for their clients, and how we can improve what we are currently doing.

In addition, I have some ideas as to how we can improve the overall experience for clients at the pantries when they are shopping, such as designing the shopping experience so that produce is the first item individuals put into their bag, in order to encourage fresh, nutritious foods over processed foods. I would also be interested in whether there would be the opportunity to conduct a short survey with the pantry clients to learn how helpful the Healthy Pantry Project efforts have been thus far and what suggestions clients may have in providing nutritional options.

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“Healthy Choice” signs at SixEight, a partner pantry of the Healthy Pantry Project

In a year from now (post-AmeriCorps), how do you think working with this program will make you a more experienced and knowledgeable individual about the work you plan to pursue in the future?

I have a vision for my future career that involves working at a non-profit promoting nutrition to underserved populations. Whether this is at a food bank or another venue of work, I am not sure of yet. I am also counting on this year to help me truly understand what this work is like and whether I see myself making a difference doing this kind of work. I believe it will also provide me with a larger outlook on how I can serve within the field of nutrition, whether that is as a dietitian, nutritionist, public health educator, or another profession that I am yet unaware of.

To sum up why I think that Healthy Pantry Project will make a difference in the lives of the food insecure in Clark County, I leave you with this quote:

“There’s no magic.
There’s no medicine.
[It’s] education.”
-Dr. Razia Sheikh
“Hunger in the Valley of Plenty” video series by KQED

The shopping style area of SixEight pantry, a partner of the Healthy Pantry Project

“Giving up a year of your life”

It makes us very happy just how many people viewed our last post “The Nutrition Education Team…”! We hope that our readers will take full advantage of the expansion of the Nutrition Education program since we now have five AmeriCorps instead of two.

We started our new jobs on September 1st, 2015. The first few weeks were full of introductions, training, orientations, and more introductions. I feel as though I (Lauren) can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we were warmly welcomed at the Clark County Food Bank. We all feel as though the work we do is greatly appreciated, especially as AmeriCorps members. One phrase we have heard a few people say over the course of the past few weeks is that we are “giving up a year of our life” to serve as AmeriCorps members. This phrase rang true to me each time I heard it, and so I asked the other AmeriCorps gals if they felt the same way. I asked them to share their thoughts on why they feel that people describe our year of service with these words, how that made them feel, and how they might prefer their year of service to be described.

First off, let me say that in no way are we upset that individuals have described our term as “giving up a year of our life”. Instead, we want to address this phrase because we wanted to understand why others see our term of service as a year of sacrifice.

There was a bit of research involved in response to why the AmeriCorps member think that others might describe our term as “giving up a year”. We found a couple articles online that used similar language. One article where the phrase was used almost word for word was in an article on Think Progress where Samantha Jo Warfield, press secretary at Corporation for National Community Service (the national agency for AmeriCorps) said that “You’re giving up a year of your life to this country.” In addition, we found that oftentimes, volunteerism is worded as “giving your time”. So, while it’s not “wrong” for others to describe our term as giving something up, we still felt as though these words put a negative spin on what this year really means for us.

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The Nutrition Education team helping out at Heritage Farm

We believe that the mindset that we are “giving up a year of our lives” stems from the fact that we are receiving very little pay for the huge amount of work we are doing for this year. We work full-time but only receive enough for paying basic needs, with little leftover for saving, recreational/miscellaneous/ luxury spending, or even paying off school debt. For some, this may seem like a huge sacrifice. However, we do not see the reward of serving as an AmeriCorps as one of monetary value; we see the reward in the experience. We are getting to serve people in need on a full-time basis, receiving experience in a field of work that can be quite difficult to work in right out of college, strengthen a community by becoming healthier and more aware of nutrition, all while getting to explore a new part of the country. All of these experiences are ever more rewarding than anything money could buy.

Maybe we (the five Nutrition Ed. AmeriCorps) are a bit different than most of our peers. It might be that we are looking for jobs that satisfy more than our bank accounts (or our parents). As our AmeriCorps member Blair Borax put it, “If I had the option to do what I love and I am passionate about for little money or to do what I dislike for all of the money in the world, I would choose what I love every time.”

We believe that we are not giving up a year of our life.

Instead, we are…

  • Doing amazing work to increase nutrition education in low-income communities.
  • Admirable, because we are choosing to serve a needy population while putting ourselves in a similar position.
  • Giving a year of our lives to serve the people in this country who need it most.
  • Very brave to put ourselves on a less traditional path and moving ourselves across country.
  • The people of our generation that will make a major impact for our country.

Feel free to steal any of those phrases to describe our service and term as AmeriCorps members or come up with your own and let us know what they are! We love our jobs and serving the communities we are in! We don’t want anyone to think that we are giving anything up in order to be at the Clark County Food Bank for the next year. We are thrilled to have this amazing opportunity!

If you have any thoughts on this phrase and our response, please feel free to leave a comment on our blog or any other social media in which we share this post!

~Lauren Cameron
2015 AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator


The Nutrition Education team helping Master Preservers from the WSU Extension make pear butter for Taste & See.

The Nutrition Education Team: Introducing the new 2015-2016 AmeriCorps members!!

Hello Clark County Food Bank (CCFB) blog readers!

It has been some time since our last post (over a year!) but we are excited to be back to blogging about the events and thoughts that we are having at CCFB! Writing for you today is Lauren Cameron, and I am one of the new AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators. If you aren’t real familiar with our Nutrition Education program, feel free to peruse the information on our official website. This post is all about introducing each of the new AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators (written by each of us so you get an idea of our different and awesome personalities). We are all genuinely excited and honored to become a part of the Nutrition Education team at Clark County Food Bank!


Hi, my name is Lauren Cameron. I lived in Kentucky since the year 2000 and I went to college in Berea, Kentucky where I studied Nutrition and Food Studies and did a minor in Health Studies. I also had the opportunity to become Yoga Teacher certified while going to college and I enjoy learning more about the practice. In addition, I am currently taking courses part time in order to apply for graduate schools to study Dietetics in the Fall of 2016.

I am very excited about working at the Clark County Food Bank and as an AmeriCorps member because it is letting me put into action many conversations I have had with classmates and professors while in my undergraduate study. I know that this job will have its challenges and may not feel rewarding every single day, but I am motivated to learn from every experience I have during this year and find a way to make it benefit the food bank and those we serve here.

Each summer while I have been in college has been quite special for me because of the people I get to spend it with. This summer was not very exciting since I was busy taking Chemistry and Microbiology, but it definitely had its highlights. I got to spend the whole summer with one of my sisters and my grandfather. It was nice to get to do crafts and spend time at the pool with my sister and cook supper (or just eat a very delicious meal) with my Papa.


Hello! My name is Shaelie Harper.  I am 24 years old and am from Holland, Michigan.  I attended Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and graduated with a B.S. in Nutritional Science with a specialization in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. A couple highlights of my time in college include being an intern on an urban farm for a semester and being elected as the vice president of the Nutritional Sciences Club.

Studying at MSU provided me with a lot of opportunities to get my hands dirty and to deepen my passion for food and farming. I was also fortunate enough to be able to receive my Permaculture Design Certification in Costa Rica in 2013, where I learned a lot about creating dynamic and holistic systems within an environment. I hope to one day be able to use this knowledge to create my own business of an organic farm/bed and breakfast somewhere in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  My interests include hiking, backpacking, camping, gardening, working out, nerding out about science, cooking, and making jewelry and herbal medicines.

I am excited to be an Americorps member as a Nutrition Educator with Clark County Food bank because it allows me to put my passion into action.  I love doing anything involving food; from growing it to cooking it to teaching about it.  I am grateful for my education and I want to share what I have learned with others in my community in hopes of making it a better, more sustainable place.

This May I went on a 7000 mile roadtrip with one of my friends throughout the entire American west.  We took two and a half weeks to travel from Michigan through 11 different states and stopped at amazing places such as the Redwood National Forest, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Arches National Park. It was one of the most adventurous trips I have been on and I am so thankful to live in such a beautiful country!


Hi, my name is Blair Borax. I grew up in Northern New Jersey and graduated from University of Vermont in May 2014. From the Honors College, I received a dual degree in Studio Art and Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. I also received my Permaculture Design Certification through a 4-month study abroad program in Israel-Palestine. During college, I worked as an “Eco Rep” to educate my peers about how they can make healthier and more environmentally-conscious lifestyle choices. After graduating in 2014, I spent a year living and working on an organic farm in Northern California, teaching at-risk high school students organic farming, sustainable living, healthy eating, and character development. I am very passionate about utilizing gardening and nutrition education as a tool to inspire people to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them. I am very excited to continue to do so, in brand new ways, serving as an AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator with Clark County Food Bank this year.

This summer, I spent a month working at my Aunt’s chocolate store (yum!), enjoying time with my family in New Jersey, and gearing up for my cross-country road trip! I spent two and a half weeks driving across the northern part of the country, visiting a lot of friends and exploring beautiful places along the way. Some highlights includes the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota, Gallatin National Forest in Montana, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in Jackson, and Lake Tahoe in California! One of my most memorable moments was being in the Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park. This is the point at which Mammoth (very very) Hot Springs and the (very very cold) Yellowstone River converge, creating a very unique ecological site and human experience. As you wade through the water, one leg will be burning hot and the other will be freezing cold, but when you find the perfect sweet spot of hot and cold flowing water, it is heaven! It was so relaxing, I fell asleep in the water!!


Hi, my name is Christina Fortin. I am coming to Vancouver all the way from the east coast from the great state of Maine. I went to the University of Maine and received my B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems in 2014. During this past year I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Anti-Hunger & Opportunity Corps / Maine Hunger Initiative. I was serving Hancock County in Maine, which holds Acadia National Park, at Healthy Acadia- a Healthy Maine Partnership which empowers people and organizations to build healthy communities. My work focused on increasing food access to lower income individuals through USDA food assistance programs. These programs included: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- formally food stamps) for individuals and acceptance of these funds at farmers markets, the Summer Food Service Program establishing summer feeding sites for kids, and supporting various nutrition education classes and gleaning efforts connecting food that would have otherwise gone to waste to local pantries and community meals.

In the few short weeks that I’ve been on site at CCFB I have gotten really excited to serve a new area with nutrition education. I am really passionate about food, nutrition, and teaching. I am really looking forward to meeting more folks in the community and to start teaching!

As short as my summer was I really fit in a lot of excitement with adventures and visiting family and friends. Prior to leaving Maine I kicked off my trip with a weekend trip to Baxter State park and a full day hike of the tallest mountain in Maine- Mount Katahdin. I was able to be a part of a best friend’s wedding and spend my last few days with my closest friends on the coast. I embarked on a solo drive across the country on August 10th and stretched the trip to August 27th. Along the way I visited nine different cities and one national park (Arches).  My favorite moment of the trip was in Arches NP. I wouldn’t be meeting up with any friends that day so it was a lot of time alone and in the car. Once I was able to park and walk up to the arches I kicked off my shoes and ran through the sand. The arches are amazing and fascinating, but the feeling of my feet in the sand really reminded me of home and grounded me back to what this trip meant for me.


Hello, my name is Shaili Parekh. I’m from Phoenix, Arizona and studied Anthropology at Arizona State University and minored in Nutrition and Communications. I was the president of Real Food ASU, a club on campus that advocates for food systems issues and celebrates local and sustainable food. I was also a Nutrition Education Intern at Refugee Focus where I taught Nutrition Classes to newly arrived refugee women. My career goals are constantly evolving but I know that I want to continue to do community work surrounding food. Continuing work at a food bank, working at an extension office or going to culinary school are all possibilities! I’m excited to work at CCFB because I know I’m going to grow as an educator and leader in the community, and I can’t wait to get to know all the staff here! Everyone has been so welcoming and I can already tell that CCFB has a great work environment with great people!

This summer, I went to a music festival in California called Lightning in a Bottle as well as several road trips around Arizona to hike, camp, and explore. I visited Sedona, Flagstaff, and Tuscon and had a blast!

So that is our Nutrition Education AmeriCorps for the next year! We will be here until Mid-July of 2016 so feel free to introduce yourself to us and ask us your hard pressing questions via email, phone calls, etc. We would love to hear from you and know how we can help in providing Nutrition Education to the Clark County community.

Contact info:


Author: Lauren Cameron*

*Personal biographies wrote by that individual