Here to Help

Food Is Medicine Class

In Memory of Greg Hanna

Made possible with a gift from the Hanna Family

The Center is proud to offer the Food is Medicine cooking class.  Created by nutritionist Mary Flynn, PhD, the class teaches participants with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, how to prepare plant-based meals using extra-virgin olive oil.  Mary’s research has shown that when prepared 2 to 3 times per week, the meals increase food security, decrease body weight and improve overall health.  Mary’s research has been published on a number occasions and can be accessed here.

The Center offers the class as a four-week series designed to assist our members with improving their health and food security.  Participants receive extra virgin olive oil, all of the ingredients to make weekly meals, cookware, and gift cards when they complete surveys designed to measure their progress.  For more information, contact Jenny at 789-1559 ext. 10 or

This class is made possible through a gift from the Hanna family, in honor of Greg Hanna. Raised in South Kingstown, Greg was a 29-year-old arborist from Wakefield who tragically lost his life while working on a job in May of 2018.  Greg loved life, nature, people, travel, and most importantly, his family and friends. While a student at South Kingstown High School, he was a volunteer at the Jonnycake Center and recounted through journal entries the joy he would get in seeing our visitors enjoy thrift store treasures and healthy foods.

In his teen years, Greg ate like any other kid.  Despite being raised on good home cooked meals, Greg had a soft spot for fast food and took advantage of any opportunity he got to indulge.  Ketchup, with all its sugars, was a MUST on almost everything, even potato chips! Being a lifelong athlete helped prevent him from being overweight, but it also fooled him and his family into feeling that his eating habits were acceptable. It wasn’t until his senior year of college that Greg was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a condition that puts an extreme amount of inflammatory pressure on the bones and causes debilitating amounts of pain.  The result was extraordinarily expensive medication that needed to be refrigerated and injected twice a month. One of the side effects was that it effectively disabled his immune system. All of this was very depressing for Greg, as he had developed a thirst for travel and other cultures after studying abroad for a semester during his education at URI. Doctors told him that he would be fine as long as he took the medication, but that he should be “more realistic” about his desire to live and work in other countries because it would be hard to get and store his medication overseas.  It would also make him vulnerable to get very sick while he was away.

Unwilling to accept this, Greg sought alternative ways to treat the health condition that at times even prevented him from walking.  That search brought him to nutrition, and he learned about how changing the way he ate could improve the way his body felt. It wasn’t easy at first for him to swear off the fast food and the mountains of ketchup, limit his red meat consumption and cut out the sugary drinks…but he did.  It wasn’t long after committing himself to eating a proper diet of whole foods (using cooking techniques that are taught in this class) that he began to feel better. After learning about what foods and ingredients increase inflammation, he was able to eliminate them from his diet and feel the healing effects in his body.  He needed the medicine less and less, until finally he stopped taking it altogether. Greg was told he would have to take medication for the rest of his life and limit himself as a result of it. He refused to accept this and instead focused on nutrition and exercise to live as he chose. Two of Greg’s journal entries are appropriate to quote here.  They read: “I am grateful to have a partner who values fueling our bodies with quality, healthy foods” and “I am grateful for our ability, as humans, to heal.” Greg’s family feels that this program at the Johnnycake is a wonderful way to promote these things that he was grateful for.

It is never too late to start eating better, feeling better, and living better.  Whether it is your own health or that of your family that motivates you, the Hanna Family is honored to contribute to this program on Greg’s behalf in hopes that it will provide an opportunity for people to further fuel their health and happiness through this very important form of love.