Greg Lessons, Registered Nutritionist, was awarded the title of ‘CWT Nutritionist of the Year 2019’ at last year’s CWT 30th Anniversary and Awards Reception for his outstanding and distinctive work in the UK Fire Services and academic achievements. At the time of the award, the judging panel found Greg had displayed precisely the qualities they were looking for in the next generation of inspiring nutritionists. He had demonstrated courage in challenging the status quo, a significant & groundbreaking achievement of high potential and a passion for forging new pathways to further public health through improved nutrition awareness and quality of food. The judges were unanimous.
Greg’s career started as a firefighter; however, after 17 years’ service, Greg began to notice the rising levels of poor health amongst his colleagues, namely heart disease, obesity and diabetes. He decided to embark on a new vocation, and after completing his MSc in Human Nutrition, Greg pioneered the Fire Service’s nutrition programme.
His multi-component intervention involved face to face dietary, physical activity and lifestyle education programme, along with addressing the obesogenic environmental factors. His pilot trial lowered BMI, body fat percentage, energy intake and waist circumferences, thus reducing fire fighter’s risk of chronic disease within a month. His research was published in the proceedings of the Nutrition Society, and he was announced as the winner of ‘Best Original Communication’ at the Nutrition Society 2017 Winter conference.
Greg has persisted with his studies and is now undertaking a PhD while providing part-time lecturing at London Metropolitan University. However, he continues to lead the emergency services in improving nutrition and subsequent health of the workforce. His latest activities also involve being a Nutritionist Ambassador for the UK Emergency Services Games. http://www.ukesg.uk/
Since winning the CWT Nutritionist of the Year award, Greg has been on BBC news, featured in Men’s Fitness magazine, NHD Network Health Digest, Personnel Today – Occupational Health & Wellbeing, Public Sector Catering, Emergency Service Times and received a fellowship at the Nutrition Society, and is now sitting on their strategic communications committee.
We caught up with Greg to see how he found life after receiving the Nutritionist of the Year 2019 award. Here’s what he had to say…
How did you feel when you were awarded the Nutritionist of the Year 2019?
The great honour of being awarded ‘Nutritionist of the year 2019’ by the Caroline Walker Trust as it brings a certain level of validation to the work I have been engaged in over the last two years.
Have you found your role as a Nutritionist in a new environment a comfortable journey?
Far from being a smooth ride, there have been tough challenges along the way which have tested my fortitude and resolve from the very beginning. Getting the fire station nutrition programme off the ground involved a lengthy campaign with several setbacks.
What did you find was your biggest challenge being a Nutritionist?
Once approved to test its feasibility and efficacy on a grander scale, the daunting prospect of starting something completely new and leaving the familiarity of a role I had performed for the vast majority of my working life was itself a challenge. Added to that was the unknown quantity of how I would be received by my peers in a context which could be seen as ‘telling them what to eat and how to live’.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Every day I had to do battle with these fears to stand up in front of teams of firefighters to nervously (at the beginning) deliver my dietary intervention. Every day I had to overcome scepticism and suspicion before I could even begin to attempt changing dietary behaviours for the better. My fortitude, resilience and resourcefulness have truly been tested like never before, and it has changed me as a person. Imposter syndrome rears its head on a fairly regular basis, and I have had to adapt from working in a team to working alone, taking full responsibility for nutrition in my organisation.
What is the most rewarding part of your role as a Nutritionist?
The knowledge that I’m helping people is rewarding, as is seeing markers for health improvement. The gratitude expressed from firefighters is also a huge boost and fuels me to keep going when the workload piles up.
What have you gained from the award ‘Nutritionist of the Year’?
The recognition from a well-respected nutrition organisation bestowing me with such a great honour has really inspired me to take my programme to the next level. It has instilled untold confidence and also supports the programme’s progression, which at times feels somewhat precarious.
What are the benefits of being recognised by CWT as an inspirational Nutritionist?
It has garnered both internal and external interest, from fire brigade personnel congratulating me, to media agencies approaching me for interviews. I welcome all of this attention with open arms, not to boost my ego, but to boost the profile of my programme and to highlight the importance of nutritionists in workplace settings. I cannot thank the Caroline Walker Trust enough for their incredible support.
We also asked about Greg’s typical day in the life as a trail-blazing Nutritionist. Here is his average day’s schedule of events. It’s impressively dedicated and hard-working.
A day in my professional life
Wake up at 06:00 – head to the gym (You have to look the part).
08:00 – start work by checking email and dealing with admin.
09:45 – pack the car with anthropometric equipment and educational aids.
10:30 – arrive at the fire station, introduce myself and hastily attempt to allay personnel’s preconceived fears of my agenda.
11:00 – deliver interactive PowerPoint presentation to the watch on ‘Nutrition and Health’.
11:30 – hand out dietary assessment forms and hope they fill them out (99% of the time they do).
11:35 – I set up my personalised nutrition clinic in an appropriate room in the fire station. It comprises a body composition analyser, a height measurer, tape measure, laptop and visual aids.
11:45 – I see the first of anywhere between 8 and 20 firefighters for a personalised nutrition session.
16:30 – pack up equipment and drive back to my base where I’ll finish the day with more admin. This can include: scheduling appointments and stations to receive my intervention; creating nutrition educational materials for the LFB wellbeing intranet portal; writing reports to justify my mere existence; creating PowerPoint presentations; dealing with requests to attend various team meetings to deliver nutrition input to fire brigade support departments (I’ll have to do most of this in my own time tonight). (Note the absence of a lunch break!).
23:00 – close the laptop, go to bed and reflect upon some of the amazing people I met and the enriching interactions I was lucky enough to be part of. That’s the best bit of my job.
The winners of The Caroline Walker Trust Awards 2019 were announced at a special presentation ceremony held on Tuesday evening, 12th November, at Chandos House, Royal Society of Medicine in London.
The Caroline Walker Trust Awards were “intended to highlight distinctive and outstanding work in promoting public health by maintaining and advancing standards of food and nutrition. Traditionally the Caroline Walker Trust only offered four awards; however, over the years, these have changed to reflect the dynamic environment in which the Trust operates.” Anka Johnston, Chair of CWT. This year, the trust offered six awards, which also included a Lifetime Achievement award, Food Hero of the Year, Media Campaigner of the Year and Charity Food Campaigner of the Year.
CWT would like to congratulate all the winners and runners-up of the CWT Awards 2019.
Below are the award winners and runners-up for each category:
Charity Food Campaigner of the Year
Winner: City Harvest
Runner-up: One Feeds Two
Laura Winningham, CEO at City Harvest:
“City Harvest was extremely proud to join leaders in the field of food and public health at the 30th Anniversary Caroline Walker celebration and thrilled to receive an award for our work as a Charity Campaigner. We believe everyone is entitled to affordable, nourishing food and City Harvest have delivered healthy surplus food for more than 7 million meals to more than 300 charity partners serving vulnerable Londoners.”
Food Hero of the Year
Winner: Jason O’Rourke
Runner-up: Nutrition Scotland
Jason O’Rourke, Headteacher at Washingborough Academy:
“It was such an honour to be awarded the Caroline Walker Trust ‘Food Hero of The Year’ award in recognition of the Food Education work that we have developed at Washingborough Academy and also with the TastEd charity. Teaching children the skills and knowledge about the food that they eat and how their informed choices can have such an important effect on their future health and well-being is a vitally important area of any child’s education. Schools can have such a positive impact on children’s relationship with food and I would hope that this award inspires more schools to include Food Education into their curriculum.”
Media Food Campaigner of the Year
Winner: Sabine Goodwin
Runner-up: Early Start Nutrition
Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator at Independent Food Aid Network:
“I am very honoured indeed to be the winner of the CWT Media Campaigner of the Year Award. I’m grateful for the recognition of my work to raise awareness of the significance of independent food aid providers as well as the scale of growing food insecurity in the UK. Caroline Walker was an inspiring campaigner who cared passionately about the health implications of living in poverty. She would certainly have been appalled to find that millions of people in the UK are unable to afford to buy food let alone healthy and nutritious food.”
Nutritionist of the Year
Winner: Greg Lessons
Runner-up: Barbara Bray, MBE
Greg Lessons, Nutritionist at London Fire Brigade:
“I can’t thank the CWT enough for this incredible honour in recognition of my work for the London Fire Brigade. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way.”
Freelance Nutritionist of the Year
Winner: Laura Wyness
Runner-up: Shaleen Meelu
Laura Wyness, Freelance Registered Nutritionist based in Edinburgh:
“I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award from The Caroline Walker Trust. The work and impact Caroline Walker made to public health nutrition has been very motivating for me in my nutrition career and I have found the resources produced by the Trust really useful in my work. It is great to be recognised as a freelance nutritionist promoting the science behind healthy food and diets.”
The Caroline Walker Trust Lifetime Achievement Award
Professor Philip James
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Philip James who has supported the CWT since its inception and has made outstanding contributions to the nation’s food and health.
Notes to the Editor
- For information on the background to the awards and how the result was arrived see: https://www.cwt.org.uk/cwt-announce-awards-short-list/
- The Caroline Walker Trust was founded in 1989 after the death of the distinguished nutritionist, writer and campaigner Caroline Walker. Established to continue her work and in her spirit, the CWT works tirelessly to promote the improvement of public health through good food. The work of CWT is particularly targeted towards vulnerable groups and people who need special help.
- This year is the 30th anniversary of the Trust and the theme for the evening is Affordable food: Affordable health. The speakers included Felicity Lawrence, Guardian Journalist; Peter Stefanovic, Social Injustice Campaigner and distinguished Lawyer; and Dan Crossley, Executive Director at the Food Ethics Council.
- The Caroline Walker Trust Logo:
- The Nutritionist of the Year award has been sponsored by the Nutrition Society nutritionsociety.org and the Association for Nutrition www.associationfornutrition.org
- The Nutrition Society of the UK and Ireland was established in 1941 and is one of the largest learned societies for nutrition in the world. With over 2,600 members internationally, the Society is dedicated to delivering its mission of advancing the scientific study of nutrition and its application to animal and human health. The Society disseminates and promotes nutrition science through its six journals and six textbooks, in addition to regularly organising CPD endorsed conferences and webinars. Working with universities, parliamentarians, industry representatives, academic researchers, and other membership organisations, the Society aims to create opportunities for building relationships that strengthen research and collaboration within the field. Membership is open to any individual with an interest in nutritional science.
- The Freelance Nutritionist of the Year award has been sponsored by SENSE and the Nutrition Society nutritionsociety.org
- SENSE is the original unique network for professional self-employed Registered Nutritionists and Registered Dietitians. It exists to provide members with professional development, support and advice. Founded in 1996 by Dr Margaret Ashwell as ‘Self Employed Nutritionists’ Support and Enlightenment’. SENSE now has more than 70 members and a flourishing CPD programme of twice-yearly meetings. http://www.sense-nutrition.org.uk
- The Association for Nutrition (AfN) holds the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN), a register of competent, qualified nutrition professionals who meet our rigorously applied standards for scientifically sound evidence-based nutrition and its use in practice. The UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists is the only register of qualified nutritionists recognised by Public Health England, NHS Choices and NHS Careers
- City Harvest has rescued over 7 million meals, collecting and delivering 80,000 meals a week from supermarkets, wholesale markets, manufacturers and the hospitality industry. Their trademark fleet of temperature-controlled vans delivers to over 300 London community programmes, including homeless shelters, mental health community projects, family centres, children’s’ programmes, and domestic abuse refuges. http://www.cityharvest.org.uk/
- Jason O’Rourke is the Headteacher at Washingborough Academy, Lincolnshire and the Founder of TastEd. Jason’s work with Washingborough Academy featured extensively in the Government’s 2016 Childhood Obesity Strategy and Plan for Action as best practice in food education and changing food cultures. Jason’s school has also become the first in the country to receive the Gold Award from the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life Served Here’ programme. The School won the School Food Plan Award 2016. It also was a finalist in the Times Education Supplement Healthy School of the Year award in 2016 and 2017. Jason is also the winner of the Educatering School food Plan Awards in 2016 and was invited to be a Headteacher advisor to the Government Department of Health and Social Care. washingboroughacademy.org and www.tasteeducation.com
- Sabine Goodwin was a television news and investigative journalist. Sabine now coordinates the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and advocates on behalf of its members. Sabine is challenging the government on its policies towards poverty to eradicate food poverty. In 2017 Sabine created a database of independent food banks working across the UK, that highlighted how many food banks were outside the mainstream funded activities. In addition to the Trussell Trust’s 1200 food banks, Sabine has discovered another 800 hidden food banks, making a total of 2000. Her research was first published in the Guardian in May 2017. Since then, Sabine has raised the profile of independent food aid providers with the media, ministers, academics and other charities. Sabine works collaboratively with others, including running a joint project with ‘A Menu for Change’ to collate food parcel distribution data from Scottish independent food banks and with Sustain and other members of the End Hunger UK alliance to highlight food insecurity. Sabine also worked as the producer of Food Bank As It Is – a play depicting the reality of food banks. Added to this Sabine is also now working independently of IFAN with Dr Rachel Loopstra at Kings College London undertaking research on independent food banks in England.
- Greg Lessons is a Nutritionist at the London Fire Brigade. Greg works with firefighters to develop personalised nutrition plans, helping them to make healthier food choices, and also holds food preparation master classes with firefighters across the capital.
- Dr Laura Wyness was a Senior Research Fellow for three years in the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation, Edinburgh where she led a range of research projects to help companies reformulate or develop new healthier products. She now works as a Freelance Registered Nutritionist based in Edinburgh https://www.laurawyness.com/.