[EDITOR'S NOTE — Difference Makers articles share stories of the local heroes making a difference during the extraordinary times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This section is made possible by Eastwood Mall and named in honor of Mark Eckert, who made a difference in the Mahoning Valley.]
YOUNGSTOWN — The ONE Health Ohio “Dietetics Team” — Jacquelyn Oddo and Gabrielle Monk — was recently awarded a $20,000 Siggi’s Starters grant to improve the health and wellness of the city through a community garden initiative.
ONE Health Ohio was one of three recipients awarded the grant out of more than 120 grant submissions. Siggi’s Starters goal was to “empower dietitians to improve community nutrition at the local level,” according to a news release.
Oddo, the director of Dietetics and Nutritional Services at ONE Health Ohio, said the team’s mission is to improve the health and wellness of people in the communities by providing quality health care, particularly to the uninsured and the underinsured.
Oddo had initially heard about the Siggi’s Starters grant through an email and immediately called Monk.
“So we talked with our CEO, Dr. Ronald Dwinnells and he said, ‘Go for it. If we get it, we get it. If we don't, we don't. But it’s always good to try for it.’ So that's how we got interested in it,” she said. “We thought partnering with Siggi’s would be something beneficial for us and something different for Siggi’s as well.”
The registered dietitian nutritionists said ONE Health Ohio plans to use the funds from the grant to build a community garden in the greenhouse at their location on Glenwood Avenue. The garden and greenhouse are tentatively aimed to be completed sometime during 2021 and, Monk said, will supply fresh produce and offer nutrition education components to patients.
Monk told Mahoning Matters that ONE Health Ohio’s goal with the community garden, in addition to providing produce, is to teach families how to store, cook and maintain fresh produce.
“Our whole goal with this is to improve their overall health and wellness by supporting those who depend on these healthy foods to manage their chronic diseases, making sure they're getting adequate amounts of the proper nutrients, and then again, adding in that nutrition education,” Monk said.
“The open discussion of learning what [the communities] specific needs are, and then taking that information and supplying it to them. So the combination of the garden and the greenhouse and then the [nutrition] education can really make a big impact on this community,” she added.
Oddo and Monk first started their professional endeavors together during their undergraduate studies at Youngstown State University, focusing on food insecurity and Mahoning Valley’s limited access to adequate nutrition as a food desert.
Together the duo continued with education at Kent State University where they would end up receiving their Masters of Science in nutrition in 2019.
Oddo and Monk first proposed the idea for a community garden while at YSU but when the two became graduate assistants at KSU that vision came to life. Together Oddo and Monk worked on Kent State Nutrition’s food insecurity garden.
In February 2019, Oddo was hired by ONE Health Ohio to develop their nutrition department for all of their health centers. Monk later joined ONE Health Ohio in June 2019.
“Together we have been building this program to help the patients at ONE Health Ohio to utilize the foods that they have access to in their own homes, to help them to prevent or manage any of their chronic health conditions that have nutrition implications with them as well,” Oddo said.
“I think we have good chemistry. We’ve obviously [worked on] a lot of projects together involving insecurity. So to now actually be doing that in our line of work is an awesome opportunity. I'm very fortunate for it,” Monk added.