By Myranda Vig
The day I had been dreaming about and working towards for years was finally here. Imaging what the first day of my dietetic internship would be like, I pictured myself experiencing pure enthusiasm and joy. Instead, I was flooded with nerves and questioning everything. I left my house extra early to ensure I would arrive ahead of schedule. As I pulled in, I saw the Food and Friends sign. “This is it,” I told myself, “no going back now.” Fortunately, my first rotation gave me a great start to the internship. At Food and Friends, I spent four weeks shadowing four dietitians and working in the kitchen and expo/grocery area. Entering the building I was greeted with smiles and kindness. During the first week, I learned more about Food and Friends and what they offer to the community. Food and Friends is a non-profit community resource working to provide nourishment for individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses through nutrition counseling, home-delivered meals, and groceries to go.
Shadowing the dietitians the first week I saw so much passion and excitement among the staff. The dietitians are assigned different clients and they speak to them every one to six months, depending on their health status and needs. Each dietitian focuses on appetite, gastrointestinal tract, and weight loss to ensure all the clients’ quality of life is being improved. Each dietitian has a different area of interest, however, so they all counsel each client with a different approach. One of the dietitians is very passionate about the quality of sleep on one’s health. She makes it a priority to ask the clients how their sleep schedule is. Another dietitian is focused on brain health and omega fatty acids. When she speaks to clients who may be feeling depressed, she brings up the benefits of omegas.
I listened in on many of the counseling sessions between the dietitians and their clients. This has helped to deepen my understanding of several serious illnesses and their symptoms. Additionally, I learned to ask clients about any side effects to medications they are on to ensure I appropriately offer them guidance. I leave each day feeling very inspired and excited about the new information I’m learning. I have learned so much about HIV/AIDS during this rotation.
When I wasn’t with one of the dietitians, I was designing educational resources or working upstairs in the kitchen/expo area. In my independent work time, I designed three infographics regarding low sodium seasoning tips, choosing whole grains and high fiber fruits/vegetables, and the benefits of small frequent meals for lung and heart disease. I wrote a blog post style resource for these topics as well. I enjoyed designing these educational resources for the clients to refer to and to offer them some tips and guidance.
Let me tell you, I was not expecting how quickly I would be working to prepare hundreds of fruit cocktails, produce bags, and fruit for the grocery deliveries. I had so much fun working with the volunteers to ensure we got all the work done efficiently. Food and Friends offer many different types of meals and groceries for their clients, such as heart-healthy, diabetic, renal, gastrointestinal friendly, vegetarian, no fish, no dairy, and pureed diets. This is to meet the nutritional needs of all the clients. I also did a kitchen inspection with one of the dietitians to check that everything was properly working and all sanitation procedures were being met in the facility and among staff.
Overall, I’m enjoying my time at Food and Friends. I have one more week till my next rotation, and I’m so excited about all I have left to learn at my time here. This was a great first rotation site that offered exposure to community nutrition and foodservice. The nerves I felt on my first day quickly dissipated with the welcoming staff at Food and Friends. Any future interns that have a chance to come here should be very excited.