My passion has always been nutrition throughout my professional career. I also love good food and cooking, so a few years ago, I decided to integrate these two interests by pursuing a masterÂ’s in food, nutrition and dietetics at New York University at night while I continued my day job in public relations, creating food and nutrition campaigns for major food companies.
My transition from the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur happened during my dietetic internship at a hospital, where I worked with a variety of patients and became familiar with traditional approaches to nutrition education. I also trained in a childrenÂ’s clinic and observed dietitians who counseled overweight kids by weighing them on a scale and asking them about the portion sizes they ate during their meals and snacks. I felt the embarrassment of the child and the denial of the parent, and knew I had to find a better way to educate kids about nutrition, not treating them for being overweight.Â Â Â Â Â
It took me two years to research, write and develop HealthBarn USA Inc., before opening it at AbmaÂ’s Farm in New Jersey. I wanted to create an exciting place where all kids (not just kids with problems) would have fun learning about food and nutrition for a lifetime of good health. To me, it doesnÂ’t get more authentic than a farm when it comes to food! At HealthBarn USA we provide kids and families with hands-on healthy-lifestyle education. We offer the opportunity for kids to work on a farm and learn about nutrition by growing, harvesting and cooking with fresh seasonal food. And we demonstrate important environmental concepts such as organic farming, sustainability, composting and recycling.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
ItÂ’s so fun to cook with the HealthBarn kids and learn through their experiences so that we can improve our programs even more. I love seeing the kidsÂ’ excitement when they pull up a carrot, dust the soil off and take a bite and smile! ItÂ’s these simple moments that give me the most joy. Kids love everything hands-on and want their food to be individualized as much as possible. For example, simply cracking an egg is really fun for them and making their own omelet with fresh peppers, garlic and chives from the garden with cheese, of course, ignites a meal-time celebration!Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The parents canÂ’t believe how excited their kids are to cook and eat at HealthBarn USA because itÂ’s Â“healthyÂ” Â– but, thatÂ’s what we are all about: proving that kids will eat and live a healthy lifestyle if they are empowered through education about how to gain these skills for their long-term health.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
To me this is all common sense, but I realized while working in the hospital that people have lost their way in the land of convenient, processed food, so IÂ’m all about helping them get grounded again! IÂ’m so grateful to the AbmaÂ’s family, who gave me the opportunity to start Â“my crazy idea,Â” and to Rachael Ray who recognized the work that IÂ’m doing and the success of HealthBarn USA, so that more people can get involved and help expand this important healthy-lifestyle experience for kids and families across the country.ÂI followed my passion and no longer have a job but rather a fulfilling life pursuit. And I hope you will pursue yours Â– and share your story with me and others!Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â