A True Community Experience

By: Moira Cain

My partner and me on our last day at Food and Friends

Finally, I was going to start my dietetic internship! I made it through orientation, and was on my way to my first rotation at Food and Friends. As I prepped for this rotation, I realized that I did not know why a food bank would have so many dietitians. Food and Friends is a not-for-profit located in NorthEast Washington that delivers either pre-cooked meals or groceries to clients in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland. The pre-cooked meals are delivered three times per week, and the groceries are delivered every two weeks. During my time at Food and Friends, there were three aspects that I spent the most time on: a booklet for their clients, nutrition assessment calls and a cooking class.

My main project was revamping a booklet for their grocery delivery program. The booklet explains what foods will be coming each week and includes recipes that include many of those items. I worked on the booklet during the full two weeks, using Canva to create graphics for it. I learned how important it is to select recipes that are simple and have few ingredients. This is especially important because, while the intent is that Food and Friends provides supplemental foods to clients, sometimes the delivery is the only food a client receives. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the recipes have very similar ingredients to what is being delivered. I also got the chance to test a recipe for lentil meatballs before it was added to the booklet. I modified an existing recipe to better meet clients’ needs and wanted to make sure it still worked. And it did! I was proud to contribute so much to the booklet.

One thing that I had not expected to be involved in at Food and Friends were nutrition assessments. It was a surprise to me that nutrition assessments were included in the program. There are 3 community dietitians and the Nutrition Services Director who all perform nutrition assessments on their clients. I learned many things over the two weeks, but learning to speak to community clients was one of them. It was very interesting to hear the different dietitians speak to their clients. Since the dietitians speak to clients every one to six months, one dietitian told me to start by asking if there were any changes since they had last spoken. This is important to help build a rapport with the clients and help them engage with their nutrition. After listening to the nutrition assessment calls, it became apparent that building rapport is the most important thing we can do. The Food and Friends clients often have life challenging illnesses, like HIV/AIDS and cancer. I was told that for this population, appetite, weight and digestive issues are the three most important factors. Since the dietitians are speaking to these clients over the phone, it is vital that they listen for key words to determine if the client has a potential for malnutrition.

My partner and me chopping vegetables in preparation for the cooking class

I was lucky enough to be there when one of the dietitians was conducting a cooking class. I helped prep the food the day before and during the class. The class was centered on the mediterranean diet, so we made salmon cakes, tzatziki, and chickpea salad. The dietitian had handouts on each table with the different parts of the mediterranean diet. However, she did not push the information on anyone. She briefly touched on it, but then let the participants cook. Nutrition education was provided to those who wanted to know more. This was very different than my prior experiences with nutrition education.

Showing off the salmon cakes that were made during the class

Overall, I had a fantastic time at Food and Friends. I learned so much during this rotation! Building rapport over the phone, setting up and managing a cooking class and deciding what was appropriate material opened my eyes to a new part of community nutrition. While I previously had not considered this type of work, after this experience I would consider this as a potential career.

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