For thousands of years, food has long been proven to be one of the most popular outlets for the stressors that one encounters during the day. However, what some people do not know is that their food choices, as the major culprits, lie at the root of their health issues. Unhealthy eating habits like excessive sugar intake, unrestrained caffeine consumption, and indiscriminate eating of processed food have been shown to affect mood, sleep, and mental acuity.
Reports published by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control show that more than half of the adults in American struggle with preventable chronic diseases related to poor eating patterns. Although the health detriments posed by obesity have already been an ongoing concern to public health experts, recent research findings show that obesity related medical issues raise the risk of hospitalization or mortality in COVID-19 patients.
According to Dr. Julia Olayanju, the pandemic is a wake-up call on many levels. She believes that it is high time for policy makers, community leaders, food industry leaders, along with medical experts to explore innovative and collaborative ways to tackle the obesity problem that has for so long challenged our society.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Julia Olayanju and her team have been working hard on tackling this issue, drawing attention to the problems in the community. Through her first company FoodNiche (now GrubEasy), she built a community of over 45,000 food enthusiasts, nutritionists, and educators before launching conferences to facilitate learning. Since 2016, Dr. Olayanju, along with her team, have hosted internationally recognized conferences that brought food industry leaders, food scientists, innovators, investors in the food industry for thought-provoking conversations on solving the challenges facing our food systems (Disrupt Food Summit).
Julia Olayanju is a force of nature, creating an impact in communities. She is not only driving change in the food industry but also advocating for nutrition education in schools. She is leveraging technology to educate, engage, and reward students for making healthier dining choices. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis of 2020, she partnered with nutrition experts and community leaders to host engaging programming for students. While most public places were closed, school-aged kids in more than 30 cities in the greater New York area had free access to the nutritional education platform YSCooks .
According to Suzanne Klein, one of the community leaders who collaborated with YSCooks in 2020: “Our library has a strong commitment to providing high-quality health and wellness programming, so we were delighted to be able to provide our young patrons and their families with a fun and engaging way to learn about nutrition, all from the safety and comfort of their own homes. YSCooks was easy to work with and their interactive platform helped our local children learn about leading healthier lives and validated the healthy choices they are already making.”
On YSCooks, apart from learning, students earned rewards for making healthier dining choices through a point system integrated into the platform. In 2021, YSCooks team is on track to roll out structured learning modules where the nutrition education may either supplement the current school curriculum or serve as an independent after school enrichment program. With a curriculum designed for students in grades 1 – 10, the team plans to expand to higher grades as well.
According to Dr. Olayanju, “Children are curious, and it is important to satisfy their curiosity with knowledge. Engaging with them intelligently with the goal of helping them to understand why their food choices matter. We look forward to working with parents and educators to empower the next generation to create a healthier future through informed dining choices.”
Tackling the problems facing our food system may be a long road ahead, but as the saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”. These innovative efforts are definitely a giant step in the right direction. For more information, visit here.