Meet Jenna Jones: CCE nutrition program manager/community educator

Jenna Jones has held the long title of Cornell Cooperative Extension nutrition program manager/community educator for a relatively short time one year and five months to be exact. Originally from Morrisville not to be confused with our local Morrisonville she graduated from the State University of New York at Morrisville with an associates degree in dietetics, and came north to further her studies at SUNY Plattsburgh. Jenna had never been to this area until she arrived as an undergraduate student at Plattsburgh. She had never been in the mountains before, and the day she climbed Pokomoonshine as a college student she made an important life decision. That was the day I decided I wanted to live in the Plattsburgh area permanently, Jenna said, explaining how much she loved the beauty of the mountains and the lakes in this region. Consequently, when Jenna graduated with a bachelors degree of science in nutrition in December 2003, she did not send out her resume all over the country, but only looked for work in the Plattsburgh area. She spent two years working part time at CVPH Medical Center as a diet technician and worked on an internship through SUNY Oneonta. In August 2006, she accepted the full-time position she now holds at CCE. Since it is CCEs mission to enable people to improve their lives and communities through education and teaching them to put knowledge to work, nutrition education has been one of their focal points for almost a century. Educating the public about good nutrition practices and health can go a long way in improving lives and communities. Jennas job is an important one in our community, and it is every bit as big as it sounds. Currently, there are two nutrition program educators who work under her Jordy Woods and Nancy Zukowski and she is in the process of hiring a third. Although she had little training or prior experience in the area of supervision, she has found she is a natural and enjoys that part of her job very much. She is thankful she has such a great nutrition staff with which to work. The majority of Jennas salary, about 95 percent, comes from two grants Food Stamp Nutrition Education, which encompasses the Eat Smart New York Program, and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Jenna is responsible for writing these two grants each year as part of the application process for their continuance. The FSNE grant is about 40 pages long, so this is no small task. Additionally, she has to account for every dollar spent and match each federal dollar spent with a non-federal dollar spent. Jenna needs to be a mathematician as well as a dietitian! The grants also have many specific guidelines that must be carefully followed, and carefully documenting precisely how those guidelines are being met is another tedious task for Jenna. Other paperwork she is responsible for includes approving all receipts, completing mileage reimbursement logs, and checking and signing off on paper and electronic time cards for the staff under her. Approximately 50 percent of Jennas time on the job is spent on paper work and managerial duties. The Eat Smart NY program, for example, has numerous guidelines Jenna must be careful to fully meet. The CCE nutrition staff must complete the educational program with a minimum of at least 140 people per year. That will be somewhat easier, this year as those who are eligible to participate has been widely expanded. In past years, in order to participate, you had to be receiving or applying for food stamps, or be on medicaid, or regularly using an area soup kitchen or food pantry. Now anybody who shops at a store where Eat Smart NY has set up a display table can participate. Participating stores are Price Chopper (in both Plattsburgh and Champlain), Wal-Mart, Aldi, and Hannaford. The target population has expanded because many people, not just those living in poverty, have poor nutrition and health habits. Only positive things come from working with this program, so why not open it up to the public, reasoned Jenna. There are four educational components to the program: dietary quality, food safety, food resource management and food security. If you enroll in Eat Smart NY, a CCE nutrition educator will come to your home, or meet with you at an alternate location, to provide instruction in these four areas. There must be six to 12 teaching sessions to complete the program, and the program is molded to meet the individual needs and desires of each client or group of clients. For example, for a parent of young children, the educators would likely spend time teaching tricks to get children to eat more vegetables and teaching the family how to share quality family time in the kitchen preparing fun and nutritional meals together. The EFNEP program is more restricted in who it reaches, only targeting those at 185 percent of the poverty level, and only those who have children in the home. The implementation of the program is less restrictive however, and the nutrition educators and their clients could choose to spend all six training sessions solely on physical exercise, or solely on cooking or comparison shopping. A small portion of Jennas salary and time, about five percent, is from the county, and this gives her the freedom to pursue other educational avenues to reach the public such as the writing of newspaper articles, and public exhibits and presentations at events like health fairs. Attending frequent meetings throughout the North Country and in Ithaca and Albany take up a large chunk of Jennas time on the job. The morning of this interview she spent two hours taking part in a Breast Feeding Coalition meeting at the Clinton County Health Department, something she does on a monthly basis. Jenna enjoys working closely with her staff to implement the nutrition programs. No one who desires to take part in a CCE nutrition program will be turned away. Besides working with individual adults or small groups of adults, the CCE nutrition educators are currently working with a brain trauma group, a group of preschoolers, and recently completed a six-week program with third- and fourth-graders at the Momot After School Program. The Momot program focused on teaching the children how to prepare healthy meals. The last night of the program the students prepared dinner for their parents, and were awarded certificates and chefs hats during a closing ceremony. Another program is scheduled to begin soon, targeting first- and second-graders. Jenna and her staff share the same passions and goals. We each have a passion for promoting local food from local farmers, she explained, because buying from local farmers means better nutrition and it also helps the local farmers. A second shared vision among the staff is to raise awareness about healthy eating and nutrition. We want to show people that cooking a healthy meal is not difficult or time consuming, Jenna said. Jenna feels her job satisfaction is greatly enhanced by her work environment where the entire staff at CCE is like a giant family. Best of all is knowing that she is improving lives in our community. Knowing that you are making a positive difference is the best reward you can have. We like to think of ourselves as life coaches, we do so much more than just nutrition, Jenna said. If you have a nutrition question for Jenna or would like to learn more about the programs she and her staff provide, you can contact her by calling 561-7450, or e-mailing her at jej35@cornell.edu .

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