As one of the four dietitians in HISD’s Nutrition Services department, Jennifer (Griffin) Lengyel estimates she has educated more than 40,000 HISD students and community members on the subject of healthy eating.
“I love being in the field and interacting with the kids,” said Lengyel. “My teaching philosophy is fun first, learning second. When students enjoy the experience, they absorb and retain information at an incredible rate.”
Lengyel’s passion is visible to everyone she works with. “Jenny really shines when she is in front of kids,” says her colleague, Dietician Nan Cramer. “She has a knack for communicating with them and motivating them to make healthy food choices. She is also extremely creative when developing lessons and activities for the students. They are fun and informative.”
Lengyel became a dietitian because of her love of food, but it does come with its challenges.
“One misconception about dietitians is that they are all strict about nutrition and only eat healthy foods all the time,” explained Lengyel. “People try to avoid eating ‘bad’ foods around me for fear of judgment—or even tend to judge what I eat. But dietitians are human, too. The one food I can’t say no to is chocolate-chip-pecan cookies. It’s not about eliminating the ‘unhealthy’ foods you love, but instead, incorporating them into a balanced diet.”
Lengyel earned a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in human nutrition at Texas State University. She is an active member in the dietetic community, a steering committee member of Hunger Free Texans, and the director-at-large legislative chair for the Houston Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Prior to joining HISD, Lengyel worked for The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston as a research dietitian, and the Houston Buyer’s Club as an HIV/AIDS dietetic counselor. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, photography, cooking, practicing yoga, having foodie experiences, and playing with her border collie, Tag.
HISD’s other two dieticians are Kasandra Davis and Lindsay Pollino.