Remarkable Local America: The Doctor Yum Project

The Doctor Yum Project began in 2011 when Pediatrician Nimali Fernando MD, MPH, saw obesity growing at an alarming rate in her community.

What began as a simple blog aimed at teaching parents and their children how to make healthier food choices, soon grew into a community movement that bridged the gap between good food and good health.

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“There has been a bit of an evolution,” said Heidi DiEugenio, board member at The Doctor Yum Project, “We’re helping families through the three programs we offer, and by partnering with local physicians groups to change the trajectory on how families approach food.”

The Doctor Yum Project carries out its mission through three key programs: The Doctor Yum Preschool Adventure Program, which gives young children a foundation for what healthy eating means, hands-on cooking instruction, to help families take back control of their health by getting back into the kitchen, and a state-of-the-art website, that provides proven research and tools for families to learn more about nutritious eating online.

“We know that you can’t change a child’s eating habits in a vacuum,” said DiEugenio, “a lot of research has pointed toward the problem of unhealthy eating being rooted in people not knowing how to cook. Here, we have the opportunity to design cooking classes that are accessible to children, where they will learn a ton.”

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The Doctor Yum Project holds the belief that when children get to be hands-on and actually make the recipes they eat, they are exploring new foods and engaging more in the healthy eating lifecycle. The organization is already seeing a statistical significance in the changing of attitudes toward food through its offered programs.

As The Doctor Yum Project geared up to participate in Give Local America 2015, the organization brainstormed how they could be creative with their ask, in a way that also represented the purpose of the nonprofit.

“We did something similar to the ice bucket challenge, which we called the veggie challenge. We asked people to try a fruit or veggie they had never tried before, take a video and post it on social media. It really helped spread the word,” said DiEugenio.

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In addition to a veggie challenge, The Doctor Yum Project hosted what they called a “Yum-a-Thon” in their kitchen. It was a giving day celebration where they offered up live cooking classes. A state senator even came by and did his own cooking demonstration! Having a day-of event also gave The Doctor Yum Project volunteers and stakeholders a reason to bond together as a team and take part in a larger giving effort in their community via The Community Give of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“We saw a lot of new donors finding out about us through The CommunityGive, and now we have a day on the calendar each year that we can really look forward to for fundraising,” said DiEugenio.

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She recalled one instance in particular during the giving day, when one mom who had benefitted from The Doctor Yum Project brought her children in to make a donation in person.

“The kids came in with five dollars apiece to give, and it brought tears to our eyes. The fact that those children understood the process of giving – it just opens up their whole world to the good being done in our town,” said DiEugenio.

The Doctor Yum Project is a prime example of how local giving events can strengthen ties and better the community as a whole, which is what Give Local America is all about – neighbors helping fellow neighbors.