In this latest Eat Well Connect Voices Q&A, Ashley Carter, RD, LDN and Jasmine Westbrooks, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES of EatWell Exchange Inc. share their perspectives on how they incorporate impact into their daily work...
In this latest Eat Well Connect Voices Q&A, Ashley Carter, RD, LDN and Jasmine Westbrooks, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES of EatWell Exchange Inc. share their perspectives on how they incorporate impact into their daily work at EatWell Exchange, their inspiration for launching a nonprofit organization and their advice to fellow health professionals looking to expand their impact in their respective roles.
And this December Ashley and Jasmine will join us for the second installment of EWC’s Fireside Chat series, so keep an eye on your inbox for the interview’s release next month. If you’re not yet a member, join our global health professional network!
The November Eat Well Connect newsletter centers around the theme of Impact. What does impact mean to you personally as dietitians and how is this theme incorporated into your work at EatWell Exchange?
Impact means making a difference in or having a strong effect on. Because food is essential to live, what we say about food matters, whether it’s the amount, the type, or how it is prepared. Our behaviors around food and opinion about food are influential to anyone we reach and teach. Making an impact requires trust so impact and EatWell Exchange go hand in hand. People never forget how you make them feel. Our goal is to reach those communities who need the most help, that are the most vulnerable and underserved without judgment, shame, or acting as if you are the “savior” of their lives. Our impact not only changes communities but changes us to be better community leaders in the process.
What was your inspiration for launching EatWell Exchange, and in what ways do you all seek to have an impact on global communities through this organization?
Inspiration came from experiencing a lack of nutrition education and accessibility in our own upbringing and continuously seeing the health problems in people of color. Working for a healthcare organization, we saw the frustration of clients and unrealistic expectations of patients placed on them from healthcare professionals that are supposed to help. We saw that healthcare professionals were not respectful of cultures and not willing to understand factors that affect their ability to eat healthily. On a global level, we are impacting communities by learning and highlighting cultures from around the world, bringing light to traditional foods and their nutritional values. In Haiti, we have actually started a sustainable garden to help families feed themselves throughout the pandemic. This is a program we can continue in other countries and increase access to healthy food worldwide.
For health professionals looking to expand their impact, whether through their everyday professional roles or through the development of a nonprofit initiative, where do you suggest they start?
Start with an idea, develop it, and get started. After you take the first step you begin to discover what you need to do or what you did not do so well. If you are waiting for the perfect time, it may not come – begin today. Opportunities will start to open up after you do instead of just thinking about it. Initially, we started based on an idea of a nonprofit organization that would teach communities about their cultural foods, and this is an important cause, but we are making a greater impact by helping increase access and affordability of their foods as well. So, when the opportunity presented itself to expand from just teaching about foods, to getting our hands dirty in the garden, or cooking on stage with culinary professionals, we shifted, adjusted, and learned. Go after the opportunity and you grow from the journey.
Ashley Carter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and believes the way we eat is highly influenced by our families, culture, access to foods and our beliefs or religion. Ashley’s passion for wellness began at a young age having both parents with type 2 diabetes and watching them try to manage their disease by making lifestyle changes. Originally from Miami, she noticed how her environment impacted her ability to achieve optimal wellness. For the past 9 years, she has been a Nutrition Educator, originally advising her peers in college as a certified peer health educator, and now for families in lower-income populations. Ashley earned her Bachelors of Science degree from Florida State University in Dietetics with a minor in religion and is currently pursuing her Masters in Dietetics with a concentration in Health Informatics. Ashley likes to practice holistic health and tries to incorporate mental, physical, and nutrition into her interventions.
Jasmine Westbrooks works as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at a Diabetes Outpatient Facility and believes in a realistic approach to improving nutritional habits for a better quality of life. Her interest in nutrition blossomed from health problems dominating her family’s life but could have been corrected through preventive diet measures. She earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition Dietetics from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and earned her Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rosalind Franklin University. She has worked as a Nutrition Educator in the Florida Department of Health for 3 years while counseling patients concerning health issues impacting the community. Throughout her experience and service with the community and with the Florida Health Department, she saw there was a huge need for nutrition education in minorities through culture.