GREENFIELD – Purdue Extension in Hancock County has a new educator for health and human sciences, extension veteran Mandy Gray. She’ll focus on a holistic approach to health that includes healthy eating, parenting classes, budgeting and more.
Gray has worked as a nutrition educator serving both Hancock and Hamilton counties for the past nine years. She said this role will be similar, except that she will be focused only on a Hancock County audience, and will be able to offer her programs to all residents of the county, not just people with limited resources. For Gray, a Greenfield native, the opportunity is exciting.
“It kind of goes along the same lines with what I was teaching before,” Gray said.
In her previous role, Gray focused on hosting classes at venues where she could reach low-income residents, like WIC offices and the Hancock Hope House. She also worked with Healthy365, Hancock Health’s community outreach program.
Many of Gray’s classes focused on how to “shop smart on a limited budget and still eat healthy.” She would get people excited about cooking healthy recipes by hosting demonstrations and having her audiences taste the food.
“I feel like those classes made a big impact on our limited-resources families in both counties,” Gray said.
In her new role, Gray will be teaching classes about a variety of topics related to health, wellness, and budgeting, a broader responsibility than she had in her previous position. Some programs will be offered in school, others to general audiences. “Signature” programs will be offered for a single session, but most will consist of a series of classes. She’ll also be teaching food safety courses that are required for restaurant managers and others who work with food.
Broadening her focus from just nutrition, Gray said she wants to focus on the health concerns that are most relevant to Hancock County residents. She said a survey of Hancock County residents was conducted in 2020 to identify their top health concerns; she plans to send out another survey as well as discussing priorities with Healthy365 and the county health department.
“One of the biggest needs in our county is going to be drug and tobacco use, followed by mental health,” she said.
Gray said during COVID-19, she hosted a lot of online classes, which led to reduced attendance, so she’s excited to be able to host in-person events again.
Amber Barks, the lead extension educator for Hancock County, said she has gotten to know Gray well and is excited for her transition to her new role.
“Mandy is very personable, and she enjoys getting out and meeting people, making those connections within our community, and helping people live better lives,” Barks said.