Justin Batchelder Named Dietetic Technician of the Year
Our very own Justin Batchelder was recognized with the Dietetic Technician of the Year Award for the state of Colorado and we are so incredibly proud of him! However, much like many of our staff members at first, weren’t all too sure about what this award was, what it meant, and how amazing was it, really? So we decided to have a little Q&A to learn a little more about this award!
Metro Caring: Tell us a little about yourself and what made you so interested in nutrition?
Justin: My passion for nutrition grew slowly over time. As a kid, I disliked being awarded with candy in school every time we did something right or answered a question correctly. So I would usually let the candy pile up and distribute it back out to whoever wanted it. Even so, I still did not have a very good concept of what was healthy. I disliked water and I drank a lot of juice believing that it was healthy for me.
I gained more of an interest for health in general, especially exercise, as I grew out of my childhood asthma by staying away from all smoke and being more and more physically active. I took pride in my physical fitness and began eating more vegetables and forcing myself to drink water. My diet still wasn’t great by any means with the weekly venti Starbucks frappuccino and Arby’s fries and chicken tenders for lunch, among several other junk foods.
My father was a positive influence, but it did not always rub off on me. He grew many foods in his garden, shopped at natural grocers, and would try to limit the amount of sugar and junk food in the house. His passion for cooking, though, did rub off on me and I did start prepping many of my own meals.
When I was 17, I was a passenger in a high-speed rollover car accident that caused a C4/5 spinal cord injury that has since greatly hindered by mobility. The trauma, combined with some pretty nasty pneumonia I received in the hospital, had caused me to drop 35 pounds of my already lean 150 pound frame. I was skin and bones. I had a physician comment that, had I not been so healthy, I probably would not have made through.
After going through several months of rehab and relearning how to live life with a disability at Craig Hospital my grandmother encouraged me to return to school. She helped me through much of the registration process and getting set up with accommodations for my disability. She also helped me to figure out my career path by talking to school counselors and taking personality tests. Considering my passion for health and cooking, nutrition seems like a natural choice.
What is your role at Metro Caring?
As the Nutrition Education Coordinator my primary role is supporting, training, and providing materials for volunteer nutrition educators who teach different nutrition-related topics and provide recipe demos and tastings directly in our Welcome Center and Fresh Foods Market.
We get to teach folks how to cook healthfully and deliciously using ingredients directly from our market that they may not have encountered before, such as jicama, endives, Romanesco cauliflower, kohlrabi or quinoa.
It is really fun to use my creative side to make nutrition topics interesting and interactive. I have been able to develop topics like how to be a detective when reading a food label or how to create healthy snacks. We get to use a lot of really cool [food] models and even a fun, spinning trivia wheel on occasion. Who else gets to say that about their job?! It is awesome.
I also get to be a part of a great learning community by co-hosting our quarterly nutrition educator gatherings and sharing articles about nutrition topics of the day, as well as what is going on at Metro Caring on our Facebook page for our volunteers.
Can you tell us more about this award and what it means to you?
It is awesome to be recognized for my work at Metro Caring. My job is really one-of-a-kind so I never feel like I have anything to compare it to. It’s really nice to feel validated.
What does it take to receive this award?
Honestly I had to look this up! The two most important criteria were demonstrating leadership in the field of dietetics and concern for the promotion of optimal health and nutrition status amongst our community. But I believe all of this stems from having a passion and concern for the health of everyone.
Also, I am really lucky to have an amazing boss that has provided really great guidance and the opportunity for professional development. She was also extremely instrumental in making sure my workplace was successful for myself and others. I was honored that she was willing to nominate me for this award.