Healthy Living in the North

Following up with past Community Health Star Seamus Damstrom

Seamus and his parents posing at graduation.

Seamus with his parents, Scott and Jenny, at his graduation from the College of the Rockies.

Four years ago, Seamus Damstrom was a grade 12 student in Terrace, with a passion for healthy eating and creating healthy change among his classmates. We were so impressed with the food revolution he brought to his school that we recognized him as a Community Health Star, and although several years have gone by, I’m happy to report that his interest in nutrition hasn’t wavered, but has only grown stronger.

I recently reconnected with Seamus to learn more about what he’s up to and hear about his plans to become a registered dietitian – and have found out he’s still an amazing health advocate, living up to his Community Health Star status!

You were recognized as a Community Health Star in December 2014 – what did that mean to you?

When I was recognized as a Community Health Star, I was very shocked, as I had never been recognized for a project that I had done. After the initial shock of the recognition I was truly honoured and humbled to have my story shared and I hoped that it could inspire other youth to find creative solutions to local issues. I look back at this recognition as a motivating factor that provided me with more evidence that a career in food and nutrition is the right thing for me to pursue. I think the whole process of being on the Healthy Living Youth Council of BC, to developing and conducting a project was extremely important for my personal and professional development.

Seamus at a long dinner table.

Seamus at the Farm to Fork Dinner, a fundraiser for the Cranbrook Food Action Committee, for which he worked with for the last three summers.

What have you been up to since graduating high school?

Shortly after graduation, I decided to take two years of prerequisite courses at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. Life always has a funny way of changing your course and that happened to me as I actually ended up staying there for three years. At the time I was frustrated as I wanted to get to UBC to get underway with my Dietetics program but now I wouldn’t change a thing. I graduated from College of the Rockies last April with a certificate in Arts and Science and now I am currently attending UBC in the Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Health program.

One awesome thing about being in Cranbrook for three years was the connections and opportunities I found. Over the last three summers, I‘ve had the honour of working at a local public produce garden conducting various work groups, student classes, and other food literacy activities, as well as distributing and organizing our local BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program for both Cranbrook and Kimberley Farmers’ Markets.

For the last three years, I also volunteered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Senior Assisted Shopping Program, a program that pairs volunteers with senior citizens in the community to help them grocery shop and carry their groceries in every week. These experiences helped me get involved in the community when I first moved there – and it was fun listening to each senior’s unique story!

I also have had the pleasure of being on the College of the Rockies Board of Governors and Education Council, and two years ago I was nominated by Canadian Mental Health as a local Game Changer in the categories of Health and Wellness and Youth for my work in the community. I love to stay busy and try to give back to my community in any way I can.

How has your passion for food and health developed or evolved since high school?

With all the opportunities I have had the pleasure to participate in, my passion for food and health has grown even larger. One thing I love about food is how it can tell one’s story in it. When I was at the College working as an International Activities Assistant, we would do an event every two weeks called “International Cooking,” where we got groups of students to cook and serve a traditional cultural dish. This activity brought students together and, in my opinion, created a stronger community at the College.

I have really developed a keen interest in food policy and its importance in providing the framework for positive change in our food system. Furthermore, I am very passionate about food and nutrition education especially with youth and children as you can really leave an impression on them when it comes to food. By creating a positive environment to learn about, taste, and share food, youth can be inspired to further explore food and this excites me. We can never forget how important educating youth is especially when it comes to food and health.

A really cool opportunity I am involved in now is as a Nutrikids Ambassador. Nutrikids is a club at UBC that focuses on improving food literacy in elementary and primary school students in Vancouver. I am the leader for my pod and we conduct nutrition/food workshops for a kindergarten/grade 1 class. To date, we have done four 80 minute workshops to a class of 30 students with each workshop focusing on a specific food (e.g. beet, corn, dragonfruit, and apple). These workshops focus on developing the kids’ food identification skills, ways to describe food through their senses. The workshops are filled with fun hands-on activities for the kids to use their senses and explore the ‘food of the day’ further. It’s been a blast and I have really found my love for teaching in this position!

I understand you are still interested in becoming a dietitian – tell me about your plans.

I am finally at UBC to continue my education and career goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian. I am applying for the Dietetics Major this January with an intended fall intake into the program if my application is successful. After that, I would have two years of course work at UBC and a 36-week Practice Education at a registered health authority in BC. I would prefer to conduct my Practice Education in a rural community like the communities Northern Health and Interior Health support. I want to be able to use my knowledge to not only help improve our healthcare system but to improve the lives of those who are marginalized through food!

Do you know someone who is helping to improve the health of their community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star today!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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