Dana Lewis of The University of Alabama community has probably changed the way most people in the area eat lunch.
It all started with a simple request. Lewis, a University of Alabama senior who has Type 1 diabetes, wanted to be able to give herself the right amount of insulin while eating in the dining halls on campus.
AdvertisementIn order to do so, she needed to know how many carbohydrates are in her meals. The information, at that time, was only available through the Bama Dining Web site. Lewis said that it was nearly impossible to go online and decide what to eat the day before and stick to it. She asked her friends to go online and plan out their meals for the week. "They failed miserably," she said. She felt that the easiest and most accessible way for students to view the nutritional information was either inside the dining hall or right before entering the dining hall.
Lewis said, "As a college student, food should be a no-brainer."
Lewis worked with Bama Dining to place nutrition labels with the entrees in the dining hall. She feels that this not only helps students with specific dietary confinements and allergies, but also those students who want to avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15" weight gain. Her simple suggestion to Bama Dining escalated into an internship with their marketing department, which was a perfect fit for Lewis, a public relations major from Huntsville.
A.J. Defalco, the resident district manager for Bama Dining, said that Bama Dining wants to foster a relationship like they have with Dana with all students. Bama Dining, Defalco said, wants students to feel as if their kitchen is the student's kitchen.
During spring 2008, Bama Dining continued to make the information more accessible by placing kiosks outside of the dining halls to allow students to view nutritional information for that day. This works, Lewis said, because students are able to make a decision about their nutrition without having to pay to go into the dining facility or find a computer to visit the Web site on.
Bama Dining was the first Aramark location to have nutritional labels at both the point of service and on their Web site.
Lewis said, "My goal is to make sure that the information is there for those who want and need it."
While having the nutrition labels was certainly a step in the right direction, Lewis took it further by creating a class for students who are transitioning to college life with diabetes.
Her class, "Living with Diabetes," which had its debut this semester, centers on healthy living for college students with diabetes. The class is a casual seminar that helps students understand the relationship of diabetes with academic, social, nutrition and emotional changes during their first year of college.
Lewis said she wanted to teach about the transition because there are not any resources available for students with diabetes who are adjusting to college life. The class is primarily about helping people find the resources that are available to them. Lewis teaches the class, along with three UA professors, Drs. Rebecca Kelly, director of health promotions and wellness, Pamela Payne-Foster, deputy director of the Rural Health Institute, and Felicia Wood, associate professor in the Capstone College of Nursing.
"Dana Lewis was the spark behind the fall 2008 Living with Diabetes Course," said Kelly. "As an innovative student leader, and an individual living each day with Type 1 diabetes, Dana is passionate about educating others about diabetes."
Lewis' diabetes advocacy reaches beyond than the UA campus. She has testified before Congress at the request of Sen. Ted Kennedy about the need for diabetes research and the needs of people with diabetes. During the summer, she also worked with the American Diabetes Association in Washington, D.C., as an intern. She previously has served as an advocate for youth living with diabetes, traveling to Africa, Germany and New York to speak on their behalf.
Currently, Lewis is working with Close Concerns, a diabetic consulting firm, as a public relations consultant. She has also been invited to speak at the 2008 World Diabetes Day in New York City.