By Matthew Kent 

Development & Communications Specialist  

Enhancing the quality of life for participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities is at the core of Sycamore Services’ mission.

The Purdue Extension office in Morgan County is playing an important role with a focus on helping participants learn about nutrition and how to eat healthier, said Amy Runkel, Program Assistant with Purdue Extension.

Runkel has worked with individuals and groups involved in Sycamore Services’ Recreational Therapy program since August 2020 and said she likes to educate people about how easy it is to eat healthy and that it’s not as hard as some people may think.

“I like to discuss how important it is to eat all five food groups including vegetables, fruit, protein, dairy and grain,” Runkel said. “We also discuss portion sizes, serving sizes and reading nutrition labels. I feel these topics are important because they provide the most benefits at reaching goals to eat a healthier diet.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb has proclaimed this week to be Nutrition Awareness Week. The week is a campaign designed to bring awareness to residents of Indiana on how overall health is impacted by nutritional habits and how several chronic conditions can be eliminated or managed by consuming a healthier diet, according to Runkel.

But health remains a key focus through programming offered through Sycamore Services Recreational Therapy, which has offered virtual cooking classes for about two years, said Susan Norman, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist with Sycamore Services. Norman also said a health matters program has also been offered for about five years with a focus on helping participants learn healthy habits involving eating and fitness.

Norman has seen positive results for participants who have been involved. She said the classes have helped educate individuals about the importance of portion sizes, in addition to encouraging them to limit sugar intake.

“Throughout the program, we have seen individuals increase (the) amount of exercise, as well as increasing or starting to consume water and limit soda intake,” Norman said.