by Tom Marullo
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” It’s an iconic line from the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her companions discover the true identity of the Wizard and get a glimpse of how he performs his “magic.”
Needless to say, Dorothy was disappointed when she came face to face with the man behind the curtain. In some respects, I expect that same type of reception when I meet people who are part of NFESH’s What A Waste project for the first time. After all, most of my work in relation to What A Waste is done “behind a curtain.” Much of what I do seems like wizardry. What type of magic are we doing when we pinpoint the amount of each nutrient that the clients consume?
I’m pleased to say that Dorothy-like response I anticipate doesn’t happen. The most recent case in point was my trip to Oklahoma to provide training and support to the five congregate nutrition programs rolling out the What A Waste project. I was pleasantly surprised again to see the enthusiasm for the project. Everyone from both the State Aging Services Division and Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were engaged and enthusiastic. The staff, volunteers and clients at the senior centers were welcoming and receptive.
What A Waste is such a good learning opportunity. It provides data about a nutrition program’s operations. It provides insights into the impact the center is having on its clients. It helps identify ways to target new clients who are in need of nutritious meals. All of this helps support congregate nutrition programs in making changes that benefit their clients and their communities. The days I spent at the senior centers in Oklahoma reinforced the value of the project.
I could go into detail about how the raw data gathered as part of the What A Waste project becomes the information that can be used to influence change. But, that would be like pulling back the curtain on the Wizard.