Volunteers make solving hunger possible in so many ways, in and outside the warehouse! To explore how our volunteers are making a difference out in the community, we interviewed two of the amazing health educators teaching our Whole Body Approach to Wellness (WBA) Program, which was started in 2015 as a joint venture between the Food Bank and Northern Illinois University. The program is grounded in evidence-based practice and the concept that diets don’t work; what works is helping people return to their internal cues of hunger and movement. During the program, participants – who have been identified as at risk of or already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes – also receive additional food with a focus on fresh produce.
Carol Waggoner is a Public Health Nurse and Health Educator with the McHenry County Department of Health, and Mary Carol MacDonald is the Manager of Diabetes Services at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Hospital Elgin. Read below to find out what they have to say about volunteering with the Food Bank and teaching WBA classes!
Carol: I’ve been involved with the Food Bank for about four years. Jacqui Hebein (Director of Agency Relations) was our [then] county rep, and she introduced me.
Mary Carol: I’ve been involved with the Food Bank since before it moved to its Geneva location [ion September 2011]. I first became involved with my family sorting and packing donations. I’ve been teaching the WBA [classes] for over three years now, and at four different locations.
Carol: I was very excited to be able to offer the WBA program in McHenry County. I felt that it would be a great opportunity to offer our food pantry clients a [chance] for lifestyle change as well as to get some fresh produce.
Mary Carol: I first got involved with my family to teach my kids about giving back and helping others. When I learned that the Food Bank was developing a program for disease prevention, I reached out as a dietitian to get involved because the program aligned so well with the mission of my employer, AMITA Health.
Carol: Our participants are so grateful for this program. We encourage them to talk about their small changes at the class, and it is so rewarding to hear about the changes they’ve made.
Mary Carol: The best part about teaching WBA classes is coming into the pantries, a familiar and comfortable environment for the participants, and teaching the participants about disease prevention in a very non-traditional way. It is a unique and refreshing approach!
Carol: It is surprising to me how engaged [participants] are in the content. Some seem like they would be very quiet, but they volunteer and share information and ideas. They enjoy not only the content of the class, but also seem to bond and make friends with others in the class.
Mary Carol: The participants are often skeptical at first since we aren’t weighing them, checking their cholesterol, or giving them a diet or exercise plan. It’s fascinating watching them become more confident each week in their relationship with food and activity. And after 10 weeks, they are proof that small changes really DO make a big difference!
Carol: So many clients have shared with the class that their children have started trying and liking some of the vegetables they bring home from the class. The latest report from the CDC says that while Type 2 diabetes with adults has leveled off, we are seeing a significant increase in cases of diabetes and obesity with children. This program is a great way to help our families and children be healthier.
Mary Carol: The produce provided by the Food Bank is a very important part of the program. It encourages participants and their families to try new foods and prepare foods in different ways.
Use your skills to help solve hunger! To learn how you can get involved as a skills-based volunteer, contact us at email@example.com.