Throughout my undergraduate degree, I was heavily involved with the Students’ Human Ecology Association (SHEA) at Brescia University College and served as president in my final year. I traveled to conferences all over the country and learned about issues not only related to nutrition and food, but other disciplines under the home economics and human ecology umbrellas. I have developed an appreciation for nutrition’s historical academic roots in science and home economics, and I chose to become a Professional Home Economist (PHEc) after graduating because I see a huge need for people to be brought back to learning basic life skills.
In my training to become a registered dietitian I saw how food ties into all aspects of life: our health, our jobs, our families and our economy. Food is now a mega issue in this country with endless media attention. We have developed poor eating habits, poor lifestyles and now we have a stomach-turning healthcare crisis. Heart disease is still the #1 killer of Canadians (80% preventable), by 2020 the economic impact of diabetes in Canada will be close to $17 billion, and almost one third of Canadians children aged 5 to 17 are overweight or obese.
People struggle with goals to improve their diets because change is hard and skills are lacking. Food is a complex issue, deeply intertwined with family, friends, habits and the rest of society. The next generation of children can barely identify the plants their food comes from, much less prepare and cook a healthy meal. In Ontario schools we are preparing children for jobs, but not for life. Parents are too busy to teach their own kids how to prepare healthy meals.
We are starting to see a reaction to the failures of our food system: in the middle class, food choices are trending toward pure, wholesome, homegrown, sustainable, local, fresh-baked, from scratch, artisan, and “DIY”. People are desperate and public action is needed.
We need a reminder that despite the massive advances in technology in our age, the family remains the basic societal unit and the backbone of society. Families are where the primary consumption, reproduction, asset-building, and development happen in this country. Bigger issues in public health will not be resolved until families can go back to fulfilling those responsibilities. We need families to pass down basic life skills such as cooking, preparing meals, raising children, and managing a budget in order to benefit society at a higher level and freeze, if not reverse, the rates of lifestyle-related chronic disease.
Policy changes are needed at a provincial and national level in order to make these changes. I am committed to that cause and I am proud to use the PHEc designation.
Stephanie Varriano, B.A.Sc., P.H.Ec VP Public Policy OHEA Dietetic Intern
In 2009, I completed my undergraduate degree in human nutrition at the University of Guelph. Having been extremely enthusiastic about nutrition and health promotion, I felt a sense of insecurity not knowing what options I had for a career path besides becoming a Registered Dietitian. After quite a bit of soul searching, I decided to pursue my Masters in Nutrition Communication at Ryerson University, which as the name suggests, linked my two passions: nutrition and communicating. Upon completing this degree, I became Director of Program Development at a food marketing company, Creative Sampling Solutions Inc. (CSS Inc.), where I develop and execute retail programs and consumer shows related to “Eating for Wellness”. I am now working towards becoming a partner at CSS Inc. and integrating nutrition communication into our marketing efforts. Working in the food industry is an interesting area of practice. I realized early on that my morals as a nutrition professional would be tested. I wanted a credential to keep me accountable in my marketing activities, and that was the Professional Home Economist designation. Being a Professional Home Economist gives me credibility in my field, a diverse group of professionals to learn from, and most importantly, pride knowing that I am helping fulfill the organizations mission of “assisting families and individuals achieve and maintain a desirable quality of life.”
Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec. Director of Program Development Creative Sampling Solutions Inc.