The power of nutrition

The OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness hosts third annual Oregon Nutrition Day symposium

What happens when more than 150 people come together to talk about nutrition? A day filled with emotional stories about the power of healthy eating. 

One of the most compelling stories came from the principal of Shasta Elementary in Klamath Falls, Oregon. This is a school in which all students have access to free breakfast and lunch and a community with one-quarter of all kids living in poverty. Principal David Wehr detailed the small steps they had taken during the past year to improve the health and wellness culture at their school.

The staff moved recess before lunch, added a salad cart with fresh fruits and veggies that students go through before they get to the hot entree line, eliminated sugary treats from birthday celebrations and implemented a snack policy in which all snacks from home must be picked from a tree or pulled from the ground. They also got a bike fleet that older students use to train for a mini triathlon. Faculty and staff have gotten in on the action, too, with every employee walking the equivalent of the entire Pacific Crest Trail over the course of the school year. 

"Small changes contribute to big improvements for communities," said principal Wehr. "Health and wellness has become our biggest tool in working to change the mindset of students and parents who are often in fight or flight mode."

The OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness understands the powerful role nutrition plays in establishing lifelong risk for chronic disease. Their work focuses on translating the science of the developmental origins of health and disease, an area of research for which OHSU is internationally recognized.

This science, also known as DOHaD, details how risk for developing chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease is established during the first 1,000 days, or from conception through about age two. The nutrition a woman received during her adolescence as well as the foods she consumes during pregnancy impact the way her baby grows and develops before birth. While a woman provides the nutrition to her developing baby, she, along with her family, eat what is available. Increasingly the staples of the American diet are overly processed, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.

At this year's Oregon Nutrition Day symposium, health care providers, nutritionists, community health workers, public health professionals and interested community members heard about the successes and challenges of implementing nutrition programs in Oregon. Presenters discussed programs to improve the nutrition culture of schools, prescription produce programs, a summer food program for food insecure school-aged children and a project that asked community members to visually document their barriers to good nutrition.

Throughout the year, The Moore Institute aims to bring together individuals and groups that are working toward common broad goals to identify where their work intersects and to find ways to collaborate. In light of current proposed state and federal budget cuts to social service programs, finding ways to work together will ensure a stronger front in combating rates of food insecurity, poor nutrition and rising rates of chronic disease in Oregonians.