Name: Jettie Young
Title: Grad Student, Clinical Mental Health
Organization: Hornsby Bend Community
How did you end up here today, and what motivates you to work on issues to help our kids grow up healthier?
I struggled with weight issues for years, and as I saw family members struggle with health issues, I started worrying about being healthy for my children. When I was a kid, I was not very athletic and I had asthma. These factors caused me to think of physical activity as something other people did.
I started looking at what I was eating and how much I was moving. I started running…slowly! Between moving more in my daily life and eating whole foods, I lost weight, changed my outlook on activity and food, and have run 7 full marathons since 2011.
I am saddened by the amount of time children spend in front of screens and in desks today. Children are meant to move. Learning how to move and be active as a child helps our bodies transition to healthy lifestyles as adults. Encouraging people to move is only one issue communities face today. Another problem is many communities, like my own, lack access to fresh foods that are affordable. Helping children learn to recognize what makes them feel better and what foods will deliver long-term health benefits is an important job for us all!
How are you working to change the environment to make it healthier and create a culture of health?
Over the last year, working with grant-based and free resources, we’ve held free basic nutrition and cooking classes in the Hornsby Bend Community, outside of Austin, Texas, to help parents learn to make healthy, budget friendly meals using healthy foods. This spring, we have established a walking club for parents, and added classes for students in the elementary after-school program. The new walking club for parents meets three times a week. The best part about this, is that while the parents are at the school track for the walking club, the kids can play at the playground. It is a 60-minute win for everyone. The club has logged over 400 miles since January 21, 2016.
What are your biggest accomplishments in helping children achieve a healthy weight?
Our community is close to Austin, Texas, but is still classified as a food desert, without a reliable source of nutritious food. With a recent grant, a group of elementary school children were able to survey every one of their classmates on fruit and vegetable knowledge, conduct a taste test for unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and share these findings with their classmates. As a final community project, these students made a whole grain and vegetable soup to share with their families, classmates, and classmates’ families, providing a meal for nearly 700 people at a cost of 16 cents per person. This project helped the students understand that healthy foods can be easy, enjoyable, and inexpensive, as well as a family bonding experience.
What excites you the most about showing up for work every day?
I love that people of all ages are so eager for information and so excited to use it. Working with children and parents, I get to see how the whole family can benefit from this new knowledge about healthier food!
If you were starting out in your career, what would you recommend to your younger self?
Celebrate the small victories. Sometimes, looking for a big win will cause you to overlook the many small ones, and those often end up being the most important and meaningful.
What was your favorite healthy food growing up?
My mom made the best gazpacho in the summer. If we were lucky with the garden that year, we were able to use our peppers, tomatoes, and herbs in it!
Each week, our own Amy Stone speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Amy’s profile to contact her.