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5 Questions with ... Allison Raiha, Crossing Healthcare registered dietitian

Allison Raiha

Allison Raiha, registered dietitian for Crossing Healthcare

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Name: Allison Raiha

Occupation: Registered dietitian for Crossing Healthcare

City of residency: Decatur

You play a large role in coordinating Crossing's prescription produce garden program. How does the program work, and how long has it been offered to the public?

Our prescription produce program offers 12-13 pounds of fresh produce to our patients that receive a prescription each and every week throughout our garden season.

It's based on diagnosis, and the criteria fits patients with diabetes, prediabetes, patients who are medication-assisted and children aged 7 through 12 with a (body mass index) in the 88th percentile. 

This is our third garden season, and we've been doing this since the summer of 2016. 

What led to the development of the garden?

Our mission is to provide comprehensive medical services to low income individuals. As a dietitian, a lot of our patients have barriers that prevent them from getting food to be able to prepare and have for their families, like health disparity and food insecurity.

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While doing research, we noticed a parallel rise through both of those in the area. We thought that we needed to change our way of thinking and start treating differently, and identify the problem and the solution. If the problem is a lack of fresh food access, how do we fix that? 

We as a health care center want to move toward the health side and track those numbers to move that pendulum. 

Growing from a garden: Program providing jobs, healthy food for those in need

The garden program has been a recipient of a grant from the WSOY Community Food Drive. How do donations like that benefit the garden?

The community has been such a great support for our program, and the WSOY food drive is one of them. We applied last year, were accepted and we received $15,000 to go toward the food that plants the crops for our patients.

That money went toward seeds, transplants and what we get from our farmers. It's very economical when you purchase a seed that makes a plant that makes 10 to 12 items.

We're trying to be the best stewards of these funds, and it's important that we are and do what we say we're going to do with them. 

What other healthcare programs at Crossing should the public be aware of? 

We have diabetes education programming for our patients, and we also have a diabetes prevention program for our patients who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetes. 

We have a program where we can reverse that, and those patients meet with us weekly for the whole entire year. We've also got a weight loss program, which runs on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. There's also Zumba classes, and we have a personal trainer come in on Fridays at 4 p.m. 

Growing from a garden: Program providing jobs, healthy food for those in need

The classes are free to anyone in the community. All people have to do is sign a yearly waiver and anyone in the community can come. 

What's the best thing about your job?

The best part about being a dietitian for me is really seeing our patients make realistic changes in their life. I know we don't have to be perfect, but for me, it's all about figuring out how do we think differently or how do we get out of the box. We want to help make the healthy choice the easy choice. 

... I love seeing that in the patients. They're the driver of what's not working and what is working. They pick their goals that will work for them in that moment, and I'm with you on it. Patients are able to see us often, so we really do partner with them. 

Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR

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