The Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts, Professional Chef Certification '07
New York University '08 - Master of Arts, Food Studies
“I was encouraged not to feel the need to select a set trajectory, and instead stay open, keep going and exploring, and don’t settle for something that is not exciting and impactful.”
Dana Rizer is the program director for Groceryships, a young entrepreneurial nonprofit that is already making a difference in how inner-city Los Angeles residents eat. The Groceryships model calls for buying groceries for a family over a period of six months. During that time the family’s cook participates in frequent nutrition education and support meetings in order to facilitate changing the family’s eating practices from fast-food and processed items to preparing healthier whole foods.
Groceryships' core objective is to build a community that supports healthy lifestyles in an area commonly known as a "food desert"—areas with little access to fresh food, an over-abundance of fast food, and obesity rates that are off the charts. The innovative concept behind our curriculum is that knowledge of healthy eating isn't enough, it takes real emotional support to make major life (and food) changes.
“People come together initially because of their desire to learn how to eat well. They learn new nutrition, menus, and how to cook fresh ingredients for healthy eating, ” Dana said. “But they return because they bond with others in the group over this common goal. They connect emotionally with their teammates and enjoy hearing about and sharing recipes and experiences with preparing food and continue to learn about how to eat healthy.”
Dana joined Groceryships as its health curriculum and program manager in its startup phase. Utilizing a master’s degree in food studies and whole food culinary training she created the healthy eating curriculum accessed by the team leaders of the support group.
Her work has since evolved with the nonprofit’s success and she now is Groceryship’s program director and responsible for forming new teams and finding leaders to run them as well as getting the healthy eating curriculum and related information online so it is accessible to participants.
In addition to her advanced degree in food science, she brings another strength to Groceryships as a 500-hour advanced registered yoga instructor and faculty member of the Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica. Now,having found a way to join her dual passions for food, eating healthy, and yoga with an opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives, Dana brings a new perspective on an early lesson she learned here at SCDS.
“In particular, my English teacher Ms. (Susan) Hirsch and Mr. Nix (Founding Headmaster Philip C. Nix), encouraged me to be an individual and to trust that each of us has a path to walk on,” she said. “I was encouraged to not feel that need to select a set trajectory, and instead stay open, keep going and exploring, and don’t settle for something that is not exciting and impactful. For that reason, SCDS has always been in my mind as the gold standard for education.”
It is also clear that her high aspirations mesh with those of those of her nonprofit employer. “As a yoga practitioner, I believe that we are our own bodies’ authority and as I advanced in my yoga practice I realized that my body wanted certain kinds of food, ” she said. However, because nutritional needs are unique she appreciates the Groceryships approach of helping individuals and families determine their personal healthy eating programs. “Groceryships facilitates participants figuring out what is good for their bodies, discovering the healthy food they like and ways of preparing them, as well as facilitating camaraderie that makes it fun and informational,” she said.
In fact, she finds that the camaraderie outlasts that six-month program, which is providing an entrepreneurial solve her Groceryships managerial responsibility of recruiting support group team leaders. Program graduates so enjoy their fellow participants and the educational value of their experience that they are signing on as team leaders for the new groups!