The Gage County Extension Office has a new food nutrition and health educator.

Tara Dunker is a registered dietitian and a Beatrice native. In 2010 Dunker graduated from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, and in 2013 received a master’s degree in community nutrition and health promotion.

“Whether you live two blocks or 20 miles from a grocery store you should still be able to access fresh, nutritious food,” Dunker said. “I would love to work on improving that. I know there’s already so much good work that’s being done in the community, so I guess I’m looking forward to using my knowledge and skills to contribute to that.”

Dunker added that she previously worked in Lincoln, and was eager to return to Gage County when the opportunity came available.

“I worked for a couple of years as a clinical dietitian in Lincoln after graduating, and then got an opportunity to come back and work for extension, which is what I’ve really always wanted to do,” Dunker said. “I worked out of the state 4-H office  in Lincoln on east campus for the last four years, coordinating a program called We Cook: Fun with Food and Fitness. It’s an after school program for older elementary school youth, teaching them to cook, and then all about nutrition and physical activity and the importance of that.”

Although Dunker’s office is based out of Gage County, she will also be covering food nutrition and health topic areas for Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardson and Saline counties.

“Obviously, I can’t be in more than one place at one time, so a lot of that is partnering with people in the community who have goals that align with mine, and want to help me in terms of increasing healthy food access in the communities or delivering direct education to youth or adults,” Dunker said.

Dunker said her target audience is anyone up to 18 years old, as well as the adults who influence them.

“I can be doing work in licensed day care and preschool facilities in terms of working with the people who work with the kids, and maybe coming up with plans for improving the health of the environment in terms of meals and snacks or the physical activity that they’re doing throughout the day,” Dunker said. “I also hope to have opportunities to work with the school systems, the after school programs, nonprofit organizations like the YMCA, and people who are interested in improving the health of our community as a whole.

Dunker will also be contributing a bi-weekly to the Daily Sun that will appear in the print edition every-other Thursday.

"In this first one, I’m just kind of talking about nutrition and physical activity in making healthy living fit for you as an individual," she said. "But then in subsequent columns, I might get into more detail in terms of some more in depth education on things that people might not be aware of.”

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