By Lisa Harkins, RD, LDN, Community Nutritionist, Milford Branch
It’s difficult to say which nutrition education classes I like to teach the most, because I really enjoy all of them. Healthy eating for my seniors, Kid CHEF to the children eight to 12 years old, Snack Art for the littlest ones, and cooking demos at the State Service Centers. But after last week I would have to say my most fulfilling experience so far as the Community Nutritionist with the Food Bank of Delaware serving Kent and Sussex counties would be teaching “Spending Less, Eating Better” to the pregnant teens at the Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc. at their Camden and Seaford sites.
The Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc. is a wonderful organization that “was founded in 1969 in New Castle County in order to afford pregnant teenagers a means by which to continue their education and receive pre-natal care (www.dapi.org/about us)”. The program was originally developed to support young girls who were asked to leave their high schools due to their “condition.” DAPI’s services were expanded through sites in Kent and Sussex County, and although attitudes have changed over the years and options have increased for pregnant adolescent girls, DAPI continues to assist hundreds of girls each year.
DAPI services for its students include academic instruction by certified teachers at the site or at home during and after their pregnancy, social services by a social worker to address any mental and emotional issues that the students may experience during their pregnancy, child care placement assistance to help the student to continue to attend school after they have their baby, and medical services through a certified nurse at each site who also teaches child birth classes weekly and monitors the health of each student along with their physician.
I had the pleasure of meeting six girls at the Camden site and 12 girls at the Seaford site and the wonderful staff who take such good care of the students. I took the participants through a series of exercises that got them thinking about creating a budget for not only their own needs, but their babies’ as well, and stressed to them the importance of setting aside enough money each week for food. I explained how they could eat healthy on a budget, and gave them examples of some healthy meal ideas as well as tips on how to navigate the grocery store to get the biggest “bang for the buck” nutrition and cash-wise.
The girls responded well and were surprised that the fast food and convenience items they were buying were actually more expensive in the short term as well as the long run budget and health-wise. Many stated in their evaluations distributed at the close of class that they would now think about their food choices and take steps to choose healthier foods. They also commented that they would be sure to budget enough money for food versus spending their cash on extraneous expenditures like eating out, going to the movies and beauty products. One girl wrote that she learned “to make wise decisions while eating now because it will affect my child” – that is the best kind of feedback a dietitian could ever hope for! As the Community Nutritionist for the Food Bank of Delaware I DO make a difference in the lives of the people I teach, and that is why I have the best job in the world!
To learn more about DAPI , visit: www.dapi.org.