CRC nutritionist aims to help elevate clients' health, diets

The Community Resource Center (CRC) is taking its goal of helping needy residents of North County one step further.

The Encinitas-based organization — which offers a pantry with food and other services for low-income individuals and families — began further tackling its clients' health in November, when it hired its first nutritionist, Anne Fujioka.

Fujioka, a four-year volunteer of the CRC and a registered dietician, helps clients of all ages determine what and how they should eat, as well as what their health goals should be.

Yanira Frias, the CRC's food and nutrition program manager, said the organization wanted to expand its nutrition services to not only help participants shop for their groceries in the CRC's pantry but also provide them with a one-on-one nutrition consultant.

"It was important to me that we had a nutrition consultation program where participants felt comfortable coming in with their groceries they received in our Food and Nutrition Center and ask questions about the food items they selected, recipes they could create at home and personal health goals they want to meet," Frias said. "At CRC we don’t just send our participants off with food; we close the loop here and care about continuous care and overall nutritional well-being."

Frias believes the CRC is offering preventative care with the program and is helping its clients make informed decisions about what they eat.

Fujioka, who offers her services free of charge, discussed her new role in a recent interview.

For more information, visit www.crcncc.org.

What got you interested in this position?

I saw a need at the food pantry for nutrition information. I have been volunteering there for about four years and as I ushered clients around, many of them talked about avoiding certain foods because of special diets. As I inquired further about what prompted these restrictions, they could tell me what their medical problem was, be it diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity.… but they weren’t exactly sure about the diet. Also, many of them have a lot of misinformation about foods and nutrition.

Who is your typical clientele?

There actually is no typical clientele. I have a mother of three teenage daughters who want to experiment with a vegetarian diet. I have a mother of a 10-year-old girl who is extremely underweight and was struggling with what to feed her. I have a 54-year-old male with prediabetes. I have several obese clients, male and female ranging in age from 40 to 70. I have a few with multiple medical problems, like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and obesity.

What is your history as a nutritionist?

I graduated from SDSU with a BS in foods and nutrition. I then received my Masters of Public Health (MPH) with an emphasis in nutrition from UCLA. I interned and worked at the VA Hospital in West LA for four years. I was my husband’s dietitian in his private practice for a few years and also worked for the children’s hospital.

When can clients visit you? Are there any pre-requisite requirements?

I am available for private consulting on Monday, Tuesday and Friday by appointment. I also occasionally will have a nutrition information table in the waiting area where I provide clients with handouts, recipes and sometimes demonstrations on general nutrition information. For example, I recently had a visual demonstration of the amount of sugar that many popular beverages contain. Before I see the client, they have filled out a nutrition questionnaire which asks them several questions about medical history, medications, special diets followed and why they want to see me.

What does a typical appointment entail?

A typical appointment with me starts with me measuring their height, weight and blood pressure. Then I obtain either a 24-hour food history or a food frequency questionnaire which helps me assess what their typical food intake is like. From there, I figure out a meal plan that would be best for them and provide them with appropriate instructions and handouts. After my initial meeting, which could last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, I offer follow-up meetings. Some clients are satisfied with just the one meeting and others want to meet every week.

What are your goals for the program?

My overall goal for the program is to provide good nutrition information to the clients to help them and their families lead a healthy, long life. Also, for those who do have to follow special diets, I hope to provide them with the nutritional information they need to keep their medical conditions under control. For example, I have a 54-year-old male client who is a prediabetic. My goal with him is to control his condition with diet and exercise alone.

How does keeping the CRC’s clientele knowledgeable about their health help them overall?

Keeping the clients knowledgeable about their health helps them to feel better and hopefully prevent the complications and expense that can come with medical problems.

Can you speak to how difficult it is for them to get such information otherwise?

Nutrition consults from a registered dietitian are expensive and sometimes not covered by insurance. Also, these clients, like all of us, have a lot of nutrition misinformation provided to them via the internet, TV, magazines... and this is very confusing. My goal is to provide some sound nutrition information, at no cost to them, to help them maneuver through all of this.

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