Gloria Bent: Building Health through Creative Community Outreach

Gloria Bent, MS, RD, CDN

It was the patients’ frustration that seemed so striking to Gloria Bent. The year was 1987 and Bent was working at as a dietetic technician, registered at Albert Einstein Hospital in New York. Patients had plenty of information about proper nutrition and how to manage their weight. “But they were not enthused,” she recalls. “I realized that to lose the weight, you need to do more than just talk about it. You need support.”
Bent found creative ways to provide support, bringing people together, and has done so for more than 25 years.
When she noticed many parents had concerns about their children’s eating, Bent formed a picky eaters group to help create positive behaviors. She developed the curriculum for the Health Not Cosmetics weight loss and lifestyle modification program, which has been presented at family medicine and dietetics conferences in the U.S. and Canada.
Bent created street health fairs at Grand Avenue Mount Zion Church and Called out Families of God, INC, in the Bronx and at four other churches. At All Nations Tabernacle of Prayer, she developed a faith-based weight management program called AMEN: Attaining Mindful Eating and Nutrition.
People often return to share stories with Bent, who now works as senior public health nutritionist in the North Bronx Healthcare Network. “Just today there was a lady who stopped by and said, ‘Ms. Bent, guess what? I’m eating more vegetables,’” she recalls of a woman who showed Bent the spring beans she’d just bought.
A native of Jamaica, West Indies, Bent received a degree from one of Jamaica’s most prestigious colleges, then known as the College of Arts, Science and Technology. After coming to the U.S., Bent earned her bachelor’s in food and nutrition and a master’s degree in nutrition from Lehman College in 1993.
She’s raised thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. In recognition of her work in creating positive nutrition programs in the community, she received the Okin Family/Rose J. Gilman Award from the 100 Year Association of New York. One of Bent’s most successful efforts has been lunchtime farmers markets, where she shows shoppers how to use produce they buy. Some produce, Bent tells clients, can be purchased with Health Bucks vouchers distributed by the New York City Health Department, and all farmers markets give a $2 credit for every $5 in food stamps spent there.
Bent is now developing a nutrition and exercise program for adolescents called Bronx Activity and  Alliance for Nourishing Adolescents (B.A.N.A.N.A.) at the North Central Bronx Hospital, where she has worked since 1990. She also is part of the weight management/bariatric program at the North Bronx Healthcare Network, and she mentors nutrition, health education and health service administration students at Lehman College and medical students at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. “I will teach them, mentor them, mold them,” Bent says, “so they can keep the torch going when I get old.”

Casey McNerthney