It’s Like a Rubik’s Cube – Our Cover Model

by Annette Pinder

Beth Machnica is Director of Health and Well-Being at BNMC, where she leads various healthy eating, active living, and wellness initiatives on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and surrounding community. She teaches Public Health Nutrition at Daemen College and Built Environment and Health at University at Buffalo. With extensive experience in corporate wellness, community food access, public health research, social design, and food systems, Beth’s is committed to advancing policies, environments, and cultures that improve health and equity.

Interestingly, Beth says, “Growing up in Buffalo, I wasn’t the healthiest kid. I would not eat salad and vegetables, opting instead for Oreo cookies, pudding, and candy. I didn’t know any better. I ate processed foods rather than fresh food, and didn’t even know what a farmer’s market was. I had no idea how to cook and was addicted to sugar.”

Beth didn’t realize how poorly she was eating until she took a high school class that taught her how to cook and make healthy foods taste good. “After that, I’d come home from school and watch cooking shows. I started a food blog and experimented with different recipes until I perfected them.”

When she started college at the age of 17, she recalls her first nutrition class. “I was in heaven. All my life questions were answered for me in this class. Although I was aware of my interest in nutrition from a very young age, the class helped ignite my passion.” Beth completed a combined Master’s in Science in Clinical Nutrition and Public Health degree program at University at Buffalo. While earning her degree, she completed internships in oncology at Roswell, Grassroots Gardens, the Food Systems Planning Lab at UB, ECMC and Sister’s Hospital food service departments, and the ICU at Buffalo General Hospital, to name a few. She was also frequently called upon to give talks on nutrition at local public schools.

Realizing that her undergrad dietetics program focused more on clinical nutrition, biochemistry, food science, food service, and medical nutrition therapy, Beth decided that she wanted to focus more on wellness and prevention, rather than on addressing the disease process. Inspired to learn more, she became a registered dietitian and began seeing food as a determinant of health. “I found that I identified more with public health than nutrition, and that your surroundings play a significant role in determining your health. Like a Rubik’s cube, I saw the importance of looking at all aspects of building healthier communities, such as policy, mental health, and technology.”

While pursuing her Master’s degree in Public Health at University at Buffalo, Beth worked as a registered dietitian, counselor, corporate wellness consultant, and performed public health research. Her master’s degree thesis was on the Massachusetts Avenue Project, in which she studied how food affects life quality. “I saw how food has the power to heal our body, where we go, and what we do.” She also researched built environments that provide access to benches, trees, and healthy food.

Regarding her role at BNMC, she says, “It’s the perfect place for me and I love what I do. Each day is different, as I interact with so many people and groups. She is working on a healthy food project involving urban farmers, delivers healthy bags of food to people in need, works with corner grocery stores, identifies locally sourced foods for hospitals, mobile markets, and more. We are focusing on corporate wellness and helping build a culture of health in the workplace that includes free programming for everyone on campus.

Regarding advice she’d like to share with others, she says, “Transforming your health is a journey. Remember, it takes time for chronic disease to develop, and just as much time to reverse it. She urges people to stay away from processed foods. She also tells people not to blame themselves or judge others as they embark upon their own wellness journeys.

How does Beth stay healthy? “I shop at Aldi’s a lot, and eat as many whole foods as possible, such as chicken, fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and small amounts of animal protein.” She grows her own vegetables and herbs, doesn’t count calories but eats when she is hungry. She loves yoga and cycling, hiking, and meditation.

Regarding her work at BNMC, she says, “We imagine a vital vibrant City of Buffalo that is a world leader in research, design, innovation, and entrepreneurship that thrives on collaboration and community connections in an environment that fosters sustainability, health, and well-being.”