Extension Professional Staff
Extension and Outreach - Interdisciplinary Programs
520 Bevier Hall MC-184
905 S Goodwin Ave
Urbana, IL 61801
Expert in: Food Budgeting, Food Preparation/Demonstration, Overweight/Obesity Prevention, Focus Group/Discussion Group Facilitation, Program Planning, PSE Change Strategies
In 2015, Whitney Ajie began the role of Project Coordinator for the ABCs of School Nutrition program for University of Illinois Extension, leading coordination of professional development and educational opportunities for school nutrition professionals across Illinois. The program is funded by a $4.5 million grant from the Illinois State Board of Education. The mission of the ABCs of School Nutrition program is to increase the professional capacity of school nutrition employees through professional development opportunities that enable them to enhance or maintain the success of their school nutrition program. The grant program began in October 2015. In the first two years, the program provided face-to-face training, online education, and technical assistance to 452 school districts and 845 schools (representing approx. 53% of all school districts and 22% of all schools in Illinois) and reached 2,318 unique participants. To achieve this, the statewide team of Extension staff delivered 182 face-to-face trainings, and 449 website users completed 989 online courses, and counting.
Before this role, Whitney served as a SNAP-Education Extension Educator for the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs serving Logan, Menard, and Sangamon counties from 2013-2015. She concentrated on creating and improving policies, programs, and environments that supported health and obesity prevention in schools and organizations that served youth and adults, primarily those with high percentages of low-income students or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. Her activities included partnering with local agencies, coalitions, and schools to better serve limited-resource communities in regard to health and wellness, and facilitating programming to help low-income families improve their food choices, food shopping & preparation skills, and their physical activity. She also focused on changing school health environments by getting involved with district and school wellness committees to provide education, best practices, and leadership to change school and classroom wellness policies and practices.
Whitney earned her B.A. degree in Anthropology from Harvard University. Before beginning graduate school, she served as a substitute teacher and private tutor in her hometown of College Station, Texas. While nutrition and physical activity had always been a lifelong priority, this experience sparked her interest in education. In 2013, she completed an M.S. degree in Nutritional Sciences, with a focus on Community Nutrition, from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She is a member of the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Whitney strongly believes that you can adopt a healthful lifestyle by incorporating small changes little by little. She also believes that eating healthfully can be affordable and easy and is an advocate and collector of quick, low-cost meals. She loves sweets and desserts and therefore advocates that all foods can fit into a healthful diet if moderation is practiced! She also loves cooking, hiking, BBQ, road trips, festivals, farmers' markets, and living in a state with all four seasons!
ABCs of School Nutrition (Oct 2015 - Present)
Sangamon County Excellence in School Wellness Award (SY 2015-16 to SY 2017-18)