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Community Health fuels National Nutrition Month

Mar 15 2023, 2:36 PM

MARCH 14, 2023
Jill Jesso-White
(802) 855-5393

Rutland– Nutrition is important but it’s something that can be forgotten and taken for granted. “People can get on a good track, get healthy, then become overwhelmed,” said Community Health Dietician Maria Durkee, MS, RDN, CD. National Nutrition Month brings focus back to nutrition.

“It’s a whole month to celebrate nutrition and it’s helpful for remembering to make healthy choices,” she said. “It’s also about recognizing nutrition around the world. It’s about cultures and eating patterns.”

“Fuel for the Future” is the theme of National Nutrition Month 2023, a reminder to be resourceful and pay attention to the environment, reduce food waste, learn to eat on a budget and feed your community. “Eating what’s in season is cheaper and helps to sustain local growers and businesses,” Durkee said.

In Vermont, the farming communities provide locally grown produce and agricultural products that are consumed by local families and used by neighborhood restaurants as part of the food insecurity and education programs sponsored by the Vermont Farmer’s Food Center (VFFC).

VFFC Program Director Emma Hileman said, during this National Nutrition Month, her organization is launching Spread the Love,  a program that will address the lapse of covid-funded benefits for their free meal program Everyone Eats. Rutland County Eats Community Meal Program was created to continue providing prepared meals to homebound individuals. Community Health will help them identify those in need.

VFFC will also initiate year nine of the Farmacy Project which has supplied free Vermont raised fruits and vegetables to at risk individuals in coordination with Community Health. Community Health patients are referred to the program and the food is distributed at Community Health locations throughout the summer months.

“We have Farmacy program here in Rutland, and there are four other similar produce-prescription programs around the state,” HIleman said. There were 225 participants last year in Rutland County, and this year VFFC is planning for 250 shares, a majority of which will be distributed to Community Health patients. “We’ll be doing family instead of just individual shares this year,” Hileman said. “We know a family of four needs more vegetables.”

At Community Health, Durkee is in the process of designing and implementing nutrition programs for adults and eventually for children. She’ll be a resource for Community Health’s diabetes education program and will work closely with primary care providers and care managers.

“I’ve told patients, I’ll work with you and create a plan that’s sustainable for you. No fad diets, just what is manageable,” she said, “and I can help you navigate through that process and provide education along the way.”

Durkee said one of her goals is to help individuals have a healthy relationship with food in general by identifying trigger and comfort foods and helping patients discover what foods can be added to make a healthier meal or snack choice. Incorporating healthy foods and having portion control at meals and snacks can be key to having a balanced healthy diet and relationship with food.

Organizers of National Nutrition Month have created fun activities like this crossword puzzle and word search to help introduce the names of healthy foods and ingredients for cooking so people can become more familiar with healthy alternatives including nuts, berries, beans, grains and root vegetables.

“I love that they have so many resources,” Durkee said. “Focus on what’s in season and think about the growing season coming up. Maybe grab a packet of seeds and try a small garden at home.”

“During my undergraduate and graduate school studies, my professors taught us to try not to label food as good food and bad food,” Durkee said, “I can help people develop an understanding of food and nutrition through education and by influencing a healthy relationship with food in general by encouraging foods that are nutrient dense and appropriate for individuals based on their needs.”

Community Health is Vermont’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham; Community Kids Dental and Community Health Pediatrics  are in Rutland; and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers.

All Community Health locations are open and accepting patients. More information about career opportunities, hours and Community Health locations are on our website.

Learn more about Community Health at or call 802-779-9169 or toll free at 888-989-8707.


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