A Recipe for Success

By: Javacia Harris Bowser

For her 2023-2024 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship project Alanis Stansberry created recipe cards for shoppers at Live HealthSmart Alabama’s Mobile Market, a mobile food market that provides access to low-cost produce and healthy grocery staples.

Along the way Alanis, who is studying nutrition at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Health Professions, learned lessons that could be the recipe for success for Albert Schweitzer Fellows or anyone going after a big goal. Here are the ingredients.

Flexibility. Alanis originally wanted to create meal plans but switched to recipe cards after she and her mentors realized the single recipes would be easier to implement than full meal plans.

“We made recipe cards that were appropriate for people who had type two diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, or higher cholesterol,” Alanis explains. “And the recipe cards consisted of ingredients that the shoppers could purchase on the Mobile Market.”

ASF projects almost always change, so just as you may need to alter the dish you set out to make if all the ingredients you need aren’t in your pantry, Fellows should always be prepared to pivot.

Inspiration. Your project may change but why you’re doing it should not. Know your why and stay true to it. Hold tight to it amidst all the twists and turns of your fellowship year.

“I have a burden for people who have nutritional-related chronic illness,” Alanis shares. “Everyone in my family has some sort of nutritional-related chronic illness like type two diabetes, hypertension.”

While Alanis believes that a lack of nutrition education contributes to these issues, a bigger problem is lack of food access.

“I personally grew up with food insecurity and the lack of access to fresh produce,” says the Athens, Tennessee native. “So that’s another reason it’s important to me.”

Compassion. Fellows must be careful not to get so caught up in a project that they lose focus of the people. You wouldn’t use red pepper flakes or hot sauce if you ‘re cooking for someone who doesn’t like spicy foods. Likewise, be mindful of the living situations of the population you’re working with for your project.

Alanis’ recipe cards included a variety of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks. Some of the most popular picks were the paprika roasted chicken breast with vegetables, the mini meatloaves and the creamy chicken and brown rice soup. But as she created the recipes, she made sure to include options for people who may not have an oven or a microwave.

Persistence. Sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking. But you do it anyway because you know preparing healthy foods at home is a great way to nourish yourself and your loved ones.

Sometimes you will face challenges during your ASF project, and you may want to quit.

Alanis says it was tough dealing with rejection when shoppers at the Mobile Market, which is operated by Live HealthSmart Alabama, weren’t interested in trying a recipe. Time management was a challenge too, she admits.

“I definitely had a hard time balancing everything,” Alanis shares.  “I had some personal life events happen during the course of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and it was really hard to balance schoolwork.”

Nevertheless, she persisted. She kept showing up.

“I feel like I’m even more resilient whenever the outcomes are not about me, when it’s for a greater good,” she says.

Her practical advice for Fellows is to set weekly goals and work on those goals a bit each day.

“Try your best to achieve your goals but give yourself grace,” she says.

Creativity. If you don’t have all the items you need to prepare the dish you want to make, you must get creative. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship calls for plenty of creativity too.

Alanis got creative when trying to get shoppers who took recipe cards to follow up with her about their experience. She purchased a set of gift cards and anyone who completed a follow-up survey would be entered into a drawing to win one of the cards.

Over the course of her project, Alanis interacted with 86 shoppers and 43 took recipe cards. She’s currently in the process of conducting follow-up interviews.

Community. Cooking with friends makes preparing a meal even better. Albert Schweitzer Fellows don’t pursue their projects alone either. They have the support of their mentors, their ASF cohort, and the ASF staff. Alanis also had support from the Live HealthSmart Alabama coaches.

“These coaches are so engaged in the community, and they genuinely care about the people that they’re serving,” Alanis says. “They weren’t there to serve me, but they really cared about me as well.” They even started calling Alanis their granddaughter.

Sustainability. The impact of this project will carry on through Alanis’ future work. She hasn’t decided exactly what she wants to do when she finishes her doctoral program, but she knows she wants to do research with populations who are food insecure, and this project is helping her to prepare.

To ensure that her work keeps making a difference long after her fellowship year has ended, Alanis’ recipes have been uploaded to the Live HealthSmart Alabama website. A QR code will be displayed at the Mobile Market so shoppers can access the recipes even when Alanis isn’t there to hand out the recipe cards.

Alanis was deeply inspired by the work of the Mobile Market.

“It gives people who are typically food insecure the opportunity to be able to choose healthy options so that they can have a little bit more control of their food intake and, therefore, their overall health,” she says. “This project, at the root of it, is a health equity initiative getting people access to the foods that they really need and that they deserve.”

Visit Live HealthSmart Alabama’s website for the full set of recipe cards, including those made by Alanis, as well as fact sheets, videos, and other resources.