Casey Hamilton

Registered dietitian Casey Hamilton, 34, pictured here with her dog Griffin, is the sixth nominee for the Kelowna Top Forty Under 40 program to be profiled in this newspaper. Nominations are being accepted at until March 31. A special event honouring all 40 nominees will be held in the spring.

Registered dietitian Casey Hamilton stresses: “I’m not the food police.”

“I believe in giving people choice, creating affordable healthy options and more often than not, people will make healthy decisions.”

As the UBC Okanagan campus health research co-ordinator, Hamilton, 34, is all about making the university environment better for students, instructors and staff.

“Most dietitians work in clinicial settings,” said Hamilton.

“Working at a university is different because rather than working one-on-one with people as you would at a hospital or clinic, you are working on system change.”

What that means is making changes and offering options so a wider population can make healthy choices.

Thus, Hamilton has a hand in having the university’s cafeteria and food services offer vegan and vegetarian options, excellent salad and sandwich bars and Indian food, which tends to be tasty, low-fat and affordable.

“But, it’s not just about food, it’s about healthy living,” said Hamilton.

“We have free, outdoor exercise pods, walking trails all over campus and stop smoking clinics.”

Hamilton also works on contract as a dietitian for long-term care homes, Lake Country Lodge and Hawthorn Park.

Hamilton’s quest for healthy food for all also led her to start the Okanagan Tree Fruit Project.

The initiative sees people with fruit trees on their property donate excess to the project.

The project, in turn, passes on the fruit for distribution through 30 organizations, including food banks, Salvation Armies, Boys & Girls Clubs, Gospel Mission, school districts and transiton and treatment homes.

“This kind of project exists in other communities, but it didn’t in the Okanagan, so it just made sense to start one here,” said Hamilton.

“A lot of times it’s not necessarily about thinking differently, but committing, doing it, following through and following up.”

This year, the project expects to distribute 25,000 pounds of fruit.

The bulk of the harvest is being done now, so Hamilton is incredibly busy doing both her contract work at the university and care homes and her volunteer work.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of 40 profiles for the Kelowna Top Forty Under 40 program presented by BCO Accountants and Consultants, Junior Chamber International (Okanagan branch), Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. Every week in this space we’ll feature someone under the age of 40 who is making an impact through business, community involvement and innovation.

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