MPH Student Makes Healthy Food Exciting for Children Through YouTube, Tastings and More

Leanna stands next to three wooden plant beds she has just created. They are outside on a brick patio, filled with dirt.
Leanna is standing outside holding a box of green planted vegetables. She is wearing an orange face mask.
Komoroske at one of the childcare sites.

Albany, N.Y. (August 3, 2020) – Through her internship, MPH and MCH certificate* student Leanna Komoroske is applying her education in creative ways to help improve maternal and child health in the capital region during the coronavirus pandemic— including through cooking demonstration videos on YouTube.

As an intern with Brightside Up’s Health Education and Services team, Komoroske is working on the organization’s Farm to Preschool (F2P) program, an initiative funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education and the New York State Department of Health that aims to increase access to locally grown produce for children and their families while reducing cost barriers. Each year, Brightside Up partners with childcare centers and a local farm or community food organization to educate children at a young age and help them develop healthy habits that will be used throughout their lives.

Komoroske works on multiple aspects of the program, including creating recipe demonstration videos on YouTube that align with a weekly market. Her team highlights a fruit or veggie from the weekly recipe in a newsletter, which is handed out at the market and emailed to the families who utilize the childcare centers.

“Before the pandemic, the recipe demonstrations would have happened live at the markets,” Komoroske explains. “We had to adapt and did so successfully with many of our projects. This program reaches so many people within the community and it’s amazing that despite the circumstances, we are still able to reach so many!”

The entry way to the Palace Theatre in Albany
Brightside Up holds a weekly market to promote healthy food options.

Other initiatives required a creative approach, as well— such as planting activities, movement activities, and opportunities for the children to taste new foods. While in past years, Brightside Up would conduct gardening activities at the childcare centers, this year the team switched to virtual Zoom sessions to engage the preschoolers. They built garden beds at each site to provide fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs for the childcare centers  and created garden kits that were mailed home to the children so they could participate in remote activities and garden at home.

Komoroske is seeing first-hand how she can apply what she learns in the classroom at the School of Public Health, noting that she has been creating SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) and factoring in budget concerns while creating recipe demonstration videos.

“I love being able to see my education grow into something more that I can pass on to others. For example, while creating my recipe demonstration videos, I was able to use my education and keep in mind my priority population and how best to deliver the information to them,” she says.

Komoroske’s internship was made possible by support from Community Care Physicians for the school’s Maternal and Child Health Program, which she says meant a great deal to her.

“It shows that someone cares about me getting the full experience and values my commitment to working within the public health field. The fact that Community Care Physicians is invested and willing to help me excel in this field is really amazing.”

Komoroske’s goal—to work with children and combat large public health issues—has only been strengthened through her internship experience at Brightside Up, where she’s expanding her teamwork skills, helping the community combat a well-known public health concern, developing relationships with public health practitioners, and using her education to help better the communities around her.

“To see the community come together to provide for everyone is really amazing and I’m very thankful to be a part of this!” Komoroske says.

*Learn more about UAlbany's Master of Public Health (MPH) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Certificate programs here