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Washington State University Extension

Victoria Zmuda

Meet Vicki Zmuda

Community Outreach Coordinator; Food Assistance Program Clallam County

Vicki is a delightfully vibrant cooking instructor, nutrition educator, mentor, organizer, mother and college student. This year, 2021, she will be celebrating three years working with WSU.

Vicki started her work in food systems while participating in local Food Coalition meetings where she was introduced to Karlena Brailey, then WSU Community Health & SNAP Ed Program Leader. Karlena tapped her to join the WSU team as the Outreach Coordinator for the ‘Cooking with the Season’ program. Since then, she has worked for SNAP Ed on several projects, including her role as Tribal Liaison.

Vicki also works as a peer mentor, connecting people to available food and health resources plus she started ‘The Native Harvest Gleaning Program’.

Vicki tells me that a favorite food resource her students enjoy learning about is the permit process and legal  steps to utilizing road kill. She shares the ‘how to’ when a deer or elk is hit and the meat is still edible.

A unique aspect that Vicki brings is that she is bicultural, and bilingual. She grew up in the Lower Elwha area and says, “I have a different point of view where I can connect with people and with local resources here.” She tells me this is her community, and this provides a built in trust.

Vicki values being culturally aware, she has found discussions about food culture are essential in building trust and understanding in the classroom. She was excited to tell me that she had just gotten a Native American cookbook for one of her students, “students love to tell stories about the traditional foods they grew up with.”

What inspires Vicki is the ripple effect of this community-based work. She says, “you tell one person about something and they tell another and they tell someone else.” She says, “I love to hear the stories that come back around about what folks are learning regarding food and cooking.”

With the Native Harvest Gleaning Program, she has clearly seen this ripple effect. She tells me, “If someone hasn’t gleaned before and they hear of our project, they will share the program with a neighbor so that they will also participate and will then ask a family member to join in the harvest.” She says she has many consistent clients, when spring comes, they are excitedly contacting her well before the season starts.

Vicki is inspired that the community is now talking about the gleaning program year-round. They are sharing phone numbers and getting permission from people who have fruit trees. She says, “It’s building a lot of community. I think that might be the best part of the gleaning.”

The Native Gleaning Program donates the gleans back into the community. Some goes to the volunteers and their family members and the majority to the Lower Elwha Food Bank. Last year they donated over 400 lbs. of food, the most popular gleans were blueberries and raspberries.

This spring she is teaching a trauma-based nutrition classes and partnering with an outpatient treatment facility teaching nutrition and cooking. She leads discussions about how nutrition affected clients growing up and how they are doing today. She talks to them about how to prevent chronic diseases through dietary choices. She teaches people how to make healthier choices at the grocery store, what to shop for, and how to meal plan.

“The classes are amazing, I get great feedback. The clients are really enjoying what we offer.” She joyfully tells me she’s heard that the cooking classes are the highlight of the week for the outpatient participants she is working with. She has seen firsthand that they are thinking differently and they have learned how to read labels on the food to make more informed decisions.

In the summer of 2021, Vicki facilitated a teen participatory research project in partnership with the Peninsula college upward bound students. Youth Advocates for Health! (YA4-H!) is a national program of 4-H. In YA4-H!, teens around the country spend time learning about and planning actions to solve health issues.

In Washington State, YA4-H! teens are joining forces to combat the opioid epidemic through the Take-PART (Participatory Action Research with Teens) Opioid Research Project in partnership with WSU Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery.

Teens in the 2021 ‘Take-PART Program’ will focus on the opioid epidemic, substance abuse prevention and mental health. The teens did research to learn about how opioids affect their county. Then planned and implemented a service-learning project focused on community prevention of opioid and substance abuse. Additionally, the youth will take what they’ve learned to local community leaders to advocate for effective prevention efforts in the community.

Vicki will be graduating with her AA in Addiction Studies next year from Peninsula College. As for being a teacher, she says, “I hadn’t thought about being a teacher, I just fell into it.”

When I asked about what she is proud of, she tells me her greatest accomplishment is to see the smiles on the faces of her students when they come back each week, their excitement for the program is just it.

Thank you, Vicki, for your great work. You can reach Vicki at