Holistic nutritional consultant, educator, healthy foods advocate, and mom of two boys, Jodie Popma doesn’t do things halfway. Since bidding farewell to her job of 16 years as a developer with IBM, she has: gone back to school, becoming a certified Nutrition Consultant; launched her own business, Smart Food Made Simple; applied for and received a grant for schools from the Chef Ann Foundation; developed and implemented healthy eating, cooking, and nutrition classes for kids and parents, which she regularly teaches in Longmont. What’s more, all these things… they’re just for starters. A hefty stack of accomplishments, all of which transpired within the past two years. And no doubt about it, it’s just the beginning.
“I was always interested in nutrition,” Jodie muses. “How food nourishes our bodies and supports our overall well-being…I find that fascinating.” In becoming a parent, Jodie’s curiosity took on more personal meaning. “I wanted to raise my sons in a way that developed positive food behaviors,” she says. Introducing whole foods to her children, Jodie felt renewed with the magic of simple, wholesome nourishment. “My eldest son’s first food was avocado,” she reminisces. “He just loved it. He ate everything. So much started from there, those beginning meals.”
After devoting over a decade and a half to what was a successful career, Jodie was yearning for change. As her sons grew into school age, events coincided that finally gave her the impetus to pursue her passion. At Sunflower Farm preschool program, she observed the positive interactions between children and the earth with awe. Later, as she became acquainted with standard school lunch fare, she began building a vision which incorporated the power of hands-on experience with fresh produce and the amazing, evolving journey of food.
In 2015, I was selected for layoff, and it was actually a huge weight off my shoulders,” Jodie recounts. “I felt I could finally focus on the direction I wanted to go.” Jodie’s husband, a local business owner, was very supportive. “Now it’s your turn,” he told his wife. “Follow your passion.”
While still working at IBM, Jodie looked into nutrition programs, choosing to earn her nutrition consulting degree at Bauman College, which offered a rigorous curriculum she could complete alongside work and family. Upon earning her degree, Jodie paused for barely a split second to celebrate. She connected with Melissa Houghton, LiveWell Longmont Manager, and began serving on the Healthy Communities Task Force. She further volunteered at School Food Project in Boulder and the SVVSD School Food Task Force. She launched Smart Food Made Simple, a consultancy focused on teaching parents that food is an extremely powerful tool.
In the summer of 2015 Jodie invited SVVSD School Wellness Coordinator Sarah Harter to visit Flagstaff Academy to see the school’s greenhouse. When Sarah shared that a grant was available from Chef Ann Foundation, Project Produce was born. At Flagstaff, the greenhouse allowed students learn that they grow what they eat. But, not enough food was produced to complete the journey from soil to plate by sharing the food grown. The creative wheels set in motion were unstoppable. Jodie and Sarah collaborated on, and were awarded, the Chef Ann Foundation grant, and the results were marvelous, combining the forces of the Flagstaff PTO and Ollin Farms to create “Project Produce”, facilitating fresh fruit access and hands-on learning opportunities for over 900 students at Longmont’s Flagstaff Academy throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. “The feedback from kids has been extraordinary,” Jodie shares. “We’ve seen peer pressure at its best. Students are in touch with their food, how it was grown, the work and pride that goes into it, how it nourishes our bodies and minds. They are consciously developing positive behaviors that will serve them with a lifetime of benefits. This is what it’s all about for me, why I do what I do.”
We love what you do, Jodie, and look forward to seeing what’s next as you keep on! Thank you for sharing some of your story so far with us!
LWL: Congratulations on receiving the Chef Ann Foundation grant! It sounds like it’s been incredibly impactful, for all involved. Can you share an overview of what Project Produce looks like, how it’s been implemented?
Jodie: It’s been amazing. Throughout the school year at Flagstaff Academy, 5 “Harvest Days” celebrations were held. At these special events, students were served fresh and prepared versions of featured produce that they had been a part of growing in the greenhouse. Thanks to the funding from Chef Ann Foundation and the Flagstaff PTO, enough food was supplied by Ollin Farms for all students to sample. Students also took home materials, such as bookmarks that shared fun facts, recipes, and nutritional highlights, and promoted Ollin Farms. Ollin family farmers Mark and Kenna were fantastic; they really went above and beyond to invite students and families to take part in food and farm journeys from the ground up. Mark even dug carrots up in the snow for one of our Harvest Day highlighting them. Not only did the kids really appreciate his hard work, they got to see how carrots winter over…and they ate those carrots like rabbits. Over the course of the year, the kids really connected with the farm and the life of the foods they’d grown.
My personal favorite was Harvest Day was our celebration of turnips. Afterward, parents came to me telling me how previously they’d given their CSA turnips away. Now, they were looking forward to the chance to cook with them.
LWL: While you’re volunteerism is essentially a full-time job on its own, you’ve also started your own business, Smart Foods Made Simple. Want to share an overview?
Jodie: I offer 1-1 nutrition consulting, kitchen consulting, grocery store shopping tours, help budgeting for healthy weekly meals. I work directly with families, school districts and community organizations. I’ve helped parents with picky eaters create new healthy solutions for breakfast and lunch and families on a budget design affordable healthy meal plans. My mantra is straightforward: simple changes and smart choices help our children’s bodies and brains function optimally. When children are encouraged to eat whole foods at an early age it promotes lifelong positive food behaviors. A good foundation begins at home, and parents have the power to create healthy habits that will yield a lifetime of benefits.
LWL: And, you teach healthy eating and nutrition classes! Where can we find you in Longmont?
Jodie: I teach classes at Flagstaff Academy, and also offer Helping Hands Cooking for parents and little ones at non-profit parenting center Family Garden. For Family Garden classes, I rotate with 2 other teachers, and we share tips and recipes for working together on simple, healthy food prep. Additionally, I run the nutrition series for the Family Garden at the Longmont Farmers Market.
LWL: With so many balls to juggle, how do you make time for keeping fit?
Jodie: I do yoga at least 3 times week. That’s my active passion.
LWL: What’s your favorite healthy food, if you can narrow down to one?
Jodie: Artichokes. I love them. I’ve even chosen an artichoke as the image for my business logo.
LWL: What is your favorite recreational spot in Longmont?
Jodie: Our family loves the St. Vrain Greenway. We ride, walk, geocache.
LWL: What’s your top tip for families for encouraging healthy habits?
Jodie: Go to the Farmers Market together. Try new things, and model trying new things. Tell kids they get to choose 1 new thing, and create a recipe as a family. Cook together. Grow a garden. The benefits are forever.
LWL: What would you like to see develop in Longmont’s healthy future?
Jodie: I’d like see improved food access. For all families to have access to fresh, healthy ingredients and resources to learn how to use them; for all students to have exposure and encouragement to try delicious, non-processed options.
LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Jodie: It’s such a connected, close-knit community. Everyone pretty much knows everybody. And I love our local farms, especially Ollin Farms. I love the family, their sustainable ethos/practices, their commitment to community. We’re really lucky to have them in our corner of the world!
From Jodie’s Kitchen: