Small changes lead to big things

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Sometimes the small things make a big difference.

For Kay Guidarelli, Perspectives’ Dietitian, the opportunity to make small changes to the diets of growing children and mothers in Perspectives programming has gone a long way. Kay is starting her eighth year at Perspectives as part of the team that oversees the nutrition with staff chef/teacher Dan Tobias-Kotyk, commonly known as “Chef Dan.” Early on, she focused on small menu changes in the Kids Cafe like switching to whole grains, keeping an eye on fat content in various foods, as well as managing the number of desserts that go out. 

Kay’s influence has gone far beyond the Kids Cafe. She has hosted adult cooking groups and now leads a nutrition assessment for new Perspectives mothers. Kay and Chef Dan make sure that each family is provided with the necessary kitchen utensils, a list of staples and tips to improve the choices of foods made by mothers in Perspectives’ Supportive Housing. Details like this are critical to ensuring that nutrition is part of recovery, not just an after-thought.

Kay was also instrumental in seeing that nutrition was at the forefront of Perspectives’ Healthy Bags program. During school breaks, it can be difficult for families who rely on school meal programs to find a good meal. That’s why Perspectives developed the Healthy Bags - to help bridge those gaps in after-school meals and provide easy, at-home meal kits for Perspectives families.  

When Kay is not working with Perspectives’ mothers and children, she works with St. Olaf, Augsburg and St. Thomas Universities in their counseling centers to make sure that students at those universities are also eating healthy. While those students may be at a very different point in their life journey, Kay maintains that the conditions that affect young, busy students are not terribly different from those of a busy mother. In both cases, the choices that each group makes today will influence their health and well-being for years to come.

Kay’s experience fits well into Perspectives trauma-informed, holistic approach to recovery. Perspectives’ mission has been to address all facets of life that contribute to recovery, including nutritional education. By providing healthy meals and nutritional education, along with mental health and substance abuse assistance, the families at Perspectives can build stronger patterns for the future. “This is what keeps my balance,” Kay says.

Jeffrey Martin