It’s not easy to fuel your body properly when your primary food source is through donations. But it’s also not impossible—and Furman’s Sarah Mixon is helping people learn how.
Mixon ’18 completed an independent study last semester to help Kelly Frazier, a health sciences lecturer, expand the FUEL (Furman University Eating Lean) program Frazier developed.
In spring 2016, the Greenville Rescue Mission reached out for help with its meals. Frazier began leading workshop-type sessions there, including spending time in the kitchen with the mission’s clients, helping them prepare balanced meals from the food on hand.
Since then, demand for this kind of instruction has grown.
Frazier has been teaching the FUEL plate on campus for about seven years. Essentially, it trains people to fill their plates half full of fruits and vegetables, a quarter full of lean protein and a quarter full of whole grains or potatoes.
When followed consistently, the method can lead to improvements in nutrition, body composition and overall health.
Mixon is the first intern for the outreach side of FUEL, which will become an official internship opportunity for a dozen or more students this fall. She joined Frazier to help develop a complete educational program that will be rolled out next fall at about a dozen locations.
“I have a passion for loving people well,” Mixon said. “It’s combining my passion for people with my passion for nutrition.”
She also assisted with presentations at agencies such as Greer Relief and Miracle Hill’s Renewal, a residential addiction recovery center for women.
“They already want to change their lives,” Mixon said. “They’re looking to you for hope and for help.”
Women in the program are motivated to change and receptive to instruction and encouragement. And they’re faced with the fact that many people gain excessive weight in the process of overcoming addiction. They’re ready to learn skills such as reading food labels and basic cooking techniques.
Besides helping people better understand their food, FUEL encourages them to get active.
Frazier and Mixon helped start a walking club for the women at Renewal, who need a chaperone to leave the premises. Walks with Furman students can build cultural bridges and provide exercise that is proven to help relieve depression and fight obesity.
“We basically go in there and help them problem-solve, and then we advocate for them,” Frazier said.
Mixon heard Frazier talk about advocacy, but the urgency hit home during her time at Renewal as she listened to the women who planned and prepared meals. She learned the daily issues they face, such as limited fresh produce, resistance to new meals or ingredients, and minimal kitchen equipment.
“There seems to be barrier after barrier in front of them, and without help, those challenges are insurmountable no matter how much the residents want to make changes,” Mixon wrote in one of her reflections on her experiences. “If we can help break down those walls for them—if we can get things moving in the right direction—I think change is a real possibility for these ladies.”
Mixon’s FUEL internship experience is an example of The Furman Advantage, an over-arching approach to education that promises every incoming student the opportunity for an engaged learning experience that is tracked and integrated with their academic and professional goals.
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