In March 2020, when it became clear that COVID-19 was impacting lives in the Ozarks, Jaime Gnau placed a call to Ozarks Food Harvest.Gnau is a dietitian at the MSU Care Clinic. In May 2020, she graduated with a master’s degree in health promotion and wellness management.
That degree gave her the organizational and leadership skills to launch a food box initiative at the clinic.
“I had a diabetic patient that came in and he was scared to go to the grocery store. He was scared to leave his house. We started doing phone visits to stay connected with him. He didn’t have enough food and it was impacting his blood sugar. I felt so helpless,” Gnau said.
Gnau transformed that feeling into action.
She contacted Ozark Food Harvest and asked if she could get nutritious food to hand out to food-insecure patients.
“I told them the contents I would like to have. Food that is low in sodium, balanced with fruits and vegetables, whole grains over refined grains. I told them how many we would need based on what I assumed would be the need. They stepped up to the plate,” she said.
“My degree in health promotion and wellness management has helped me as far as the academic side. There was a lot of focus on theory and research and that has helped me immensely. It’s a strong program.”
The need exceeded her expectations.
Between March 27 and September 9, staff at MSU Care Clinic parceled out 14,093 pounds of food to their patients.
That translates into 11,744 meals.
The partnership is continuing.
“I am proud of our team. It’s been great. If you are hungry, it’s hard to do anything. I am glad we’ve been able to help with food insecurity. It’s a climbing problem with COVID,” she said.
Big hearted, but not yet a Bear
This is a second career for Gnau.
The Ozark native spent 13 years as a radiologic technologist, but she longed for more.
“I got into health care to help people. In that position I didn’t get that fulfillment. We were told to get people in and out as fast as we could. I couldn’t develop relationships with people,” she said.
So in 2013, Gnau decided to switch careers. She enrolled in Missouri State’s dietetics program.
“I love that Missouri State has the community focus. It resonated with me to be a Bear,” she said. “This is exactly where I want to be.”
She graduated in 2017 and completed her one-year internship in 2018.
Then she decided to pursue a master’s in health promotion and wellness management. The degree would expand her skillset and enhance her degree in dietetics.
“What I really enjoyed was it was flexible enough for me to work part time and take care of my family,” Gnau said. “The faculty were very helpful in helping me complete the process and supporting my goals. It fit really well within my experience as a dietitian. A lot of responsibilities of health educator align with nutrition.”
She landed a job before graduation — at Missouri State.
“I love that I get to teach and remain in clinic,” Gnau said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”