Saturday, June 14, 2014

Learning on the Farm

By: Christina Kalafsky, UMD Dietetic Intern  

During my rotation with the Wellness and Nutrition Services Division of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in D.C., my internship partner and I were given the opportunity to attend a farm field trip.

As part of the DC Healthy Schools Act, the Farm to School Program assists District schools in providing hands-on nutrition education experiences to their students by connecting them with community organizations and local farms. The farm field trips serve as a way to actively engage students in hands-on learning and draw a connection between plants on the farm and the food on their plates.

For our trip, we went to Common Good City Farm to observe and learn alongside 26 first graders. Located in the heart of D.C., my internship partner and I were a little confused as we walked from the metro to the address we were given. As we passed tall buildings, busy streets, and lots of concrete, we couldn’t imagine that it was possible for a farm to be nearby. But there it was, tucked away within an urban neighborhood.

During the field trip students were able to explore farm plants, investigate for bugs and pollinators, and even taste some of the fresh produce! It was so exciting to hear the kids voice how much they loved healthy foods!

The kids really enjoyed the experience and I was surprised by how much I learned as well!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All Great Things Must Come to an End

This week has been bittersweet; not only have we had our last class day before we graduate, but it was also the last time we were able to present nutrition classes to FSNE Seniors. Throughout the internship, we have had the opportunity to present different nutrition education topics to seniors who are part of the Food Supplemental Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program in Baltimore. As partnered pairs, we have taught seniors about fruits and vegetables, reading food labels, and making wise beverage choices. This past Monday, my internship partner and I were able to teach the seniors about the importance of breakfast.

Starting our class with a few stretches and chair exercises, we quickly jumped into asking the seniors about their normal breakfast routines (what foods they typically eat for breakfast, some reasons why they might skip breakfast and some of the “consequences” of missing breakfast, etc…). We taught the seniors about Breakfast Trio’s in which we encouraged them to have a breakfast that incorporates at least 3 food groups. Not only did we give examples of good breakfast trios, but we also included simple and healthy breakfast ideas that were quick and easy to make if you are on the go. Next, we had the seniors participate in an activity in which they were given a variety of “healthy breakfast items” and “unhealthy breakfast items” and were asked to create 2 healthy plates and 2 unhealthy plates.  The seniors did an excellent job sharing their plates and remained very engaged throughout the activity.

After the activity, we offered a fresh fruit, granola and yogurt parfait for them to try. There was one senior that was opposed to trying yogurt because she didn’t like the taste, but after some light encouragement, she was raving about the snack. She was very grateful she tried the snack and gave yogurt a second try. She wanted me to know that she would be buying vanilla yogurt with fresh blueberries and granola to make a new breakfast option for herself and grandson; that was a memorable moment for me.

These classes have allowed us to get close with the seniors and practice our presentation skills in front of an older population. I will miss visiting the seniors, their enthusiasm and seeing their smiling faces. I am happy to have had to opportunity to present to them and was honored that they looked forward to seeing us and learning from us!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Armenian Summer: My prideful experience in producing a theme meal

Just like our Dolma and Zereshk Polo ba Morgh, my partner, Vehik, and I are fresh off our theme meal. Although we personally weren't baked, sauted or fried, we definitely felt the stressful  heat of the kitchen.
Our theme meal took place at a retirement community in Silver Spring, MD and was titled Armenian Summer. With Vehik's Armenian heritage plus the Riderwood residents' interest in travel and culture, we came to find Armenian Summer to be the perfect theme meal.

When the planning process began we were given a few parameters by the executive chef. We needed to have beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian options, accompanied by one non-starchy green vegetable and one non-starchy non-green vegetable. We also needed  a salad, a soup, two different starch options, and at least one dessert. In addition, we were instructed by the restaurant manager to provide at least one no-sugar-added dessert, to accommodate the residents' needs. This list seemed daunting, but once Vehik began reminiscing about her favorite meals that she, her mother, and her grandmother prepared in Armenia and Iran, we created a menu in no time.

It was very important to us to maintain an authentic Armenian menu. This posed some difficulty when presenting our potential menu to the executive chef and restaurant manager; they worried whether the residents would eat the food or not due to its unfamiliarity. However, after some convincing and defending of our options and Armenian food culture, we were able to keep our menu. We used the "Authenticity" of the meal as our main marketing leg, and described each menu option with enthusiasm and wonder. Speaking with the residents about the meal and teaching them about Armenia, while learning their interests, life experiences, travels, and meal choices, was one of our favorite processes of creating a successful theme meal.

This is one of our Table Tents, which was placed on each dining table to advertise our meal. 

To be sure the theme meal would run smoothly we created a production sheet. The production sheet was a wonderful map, guiding us from Tuesday through Friday, without which we would have been terribly lost and unorganized. On Friday, the day of the meal, we arrived bright and early to begin chopping, mixing, and sautéing. All our efforts throughout the previous four weeks, such as creating  a detailed grocery list, pre-measuring ingredients, and befriending the kitchen staff, lead us to a successful theme meal that we were extremely happy and honored to present.

Although it was a long process, the four weeks of planning flew by, and the seven hours of the theme meal day felt like seven seconds. We were fortunate to have learned the depths of the planning process for just one meal and to have gained the experience of contributing to a fast-paced, successful kitchen. Best  of all, we experienced the joy and pride of commitment and dedication; to each other as partners, to the residents, and to the meal.

                     Annie Gallagher (me)             and            Vehik Nazaryan at the front of the serving bar.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Twitter Enhanced My Internship Experience...In 140 Characters or Less

I have to be honest...when Twitter became really popular several years ago, I didn't get it.  At all. Constant status updates? A character limit? What was so appealing about it?

When I realized that one of the requirements of our program was to tweet, I thought it would be a struggle.  I started off slowly by just sharing what I was doing at my rotations. I figured if no one read my posts, I'd at least have something to look back on at the end of the program. As things got busier, I found myself tweeting more and more to keep up with everything that I was experiencing.  Soon, I got the hang of using hash tags to connect with others and began posting pictures of me in action, in addition to sharing interesting nutrition articles that I found on the web.  I gained followers that weren't just my (awesome) fellow interns and even had the CEO and co-founder of the tech tool that I presented reach out to me for future collaborative efforts after he saw several of my tweets.

There are tons of ways to make the most out of Twitter during the internship but here are a few things that helped me the most:

1.  Using hash tags to reach a larger audience.  You can tweet as often as you'd like but if no one is reading it, you're wasting your time. Hash tags like #rd2be, #rdchat, and #nutrition can connect you to dietitians and dietetic interns. If you're at a conference or event, a great way to be a part of the discussion is to use hash tags suggested by the event coordinator - for example, at DCMADA, we were asked to use #DCMADA2014.

2.  Tweeting on a regular basis.  Unlike Facebook or other social media platforms where sharing too much can be a bad thing, you can post as often as you'd like on Twitter. Some weeks you may post more often than others but you don't want huge gaps in time when you aren't tweeting at all.  Similar to blogging, you want to be consistent to make sure you are keeping your followers interested.

3.  Interacting with other as much as possible.  Don't be afraid to start a conversation or reply to a dietitian or other professional on Twitter if they post something interesting.  If someone follows you, favorites a post, or retweets you, be sure to thank them - and return the favor by following back. You never know who will stumble across your Twitter after seeing your interactions on someone else's page.

4.  Staying organized!  It can be hard to keep up with all of your followers, and you may be interested in what some people have to say more than others. Creating lists can help you prioritize the tweets you want to check out, especially since some people tweet 20+ times per day. I put my fellow interns and people I met this year into a list called "Dietetic Internship" while dietitians I follow on Twitter fall under my "RDs/Nutrition Professionals" list, and my friends and family are added to "People I Know", etc.

Twitter has been a great platform for me to create an online presence and to connect with dietitians, dietetic interns, and health professionals from all over the country.  In the beginning, I wasn't sure how social media could benefit me as an intern but I quickly realized that it was another way to market myself and to share my ideas and experiences.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Adventures at Riderwood

The last six weeks have flown by and I have loved every minute of it! Coming into this rotation I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have learned so much about food service management, serving people, and having fun in the kitchen. I am grateful for all of the kitchen staff, supervisors, managers, and chefs, and the loving kindness they showed towards me. The work environment was welcoming and a great place to learn. I truly felt like part of the team and even like family. From helping at their African dinner to preparing for my own Cinco de Mayo theme meal with Becky, I enjoyed working with those around me. 
Interacting with the residents and getting to know many of them was heart warming. I enjoyed talking to them and hearing how much they love having the UMD Dietetic Interns come to Riderwood. Many of the residents knew who Becky and I were based on our uniforms. It was great to meet other Maryland Alumni!

There are no words that can truly express the joy and love I have for Riderwood. I am so happy I had the opportunity to come here and meet all of these wonderful people.

Becky and I wanted to share with those we worked with how much we appreciated them, so we came up with our own homemade recipe…

A Recipe for Fun


2 Bubbly Interns
1 Smiling Chef
1 Singing Chef
1 Loving Manager
10 Patient and Supportive Kitchen Staff
2 Selfless Service Managers
2 Funny Supervisors
5 Sweet Utility Workers


Combine Smiling Chef, Singing Chef, and Loving Manager in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Add a cup of Bubbly Interns and knead until fully mixed. Transfer to larger bowl and let rise for 5 minutes.

To the larger bowl add the Patient and Supportive Kitchen Staff. Proof for 5 hours. Bake in oven at 300o F for 10 minutes, check for doneness. Remove and cool on wire rack.

Once fully cooled, add icing of Selfless Service Managers and Funny Supervisors to top. Garnish with Sweet Utility Workers on the side. Serve warm.

Finished Product: 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

If I'd Only Known....

It’s unbelievable to think that our 10-month journey is almost coming to a close. After that first day of orientation back in August, my only thought was, “This is going to be a long year.” But boy was I wrong! Now the new dietetic interns have been matched (congrats!) and our time will soon be over. While I wouldn’t change a thing, there are some things I had wished I had known going into the internship. So, voila! I’ve created a list of the five things I wished I’d known.

1.       You do not need to know EVERYTHING! I think this was one of the first things I had to come to terms with. I used to work myself up going into a new rotation, thinking that I would be quizzed and questioned on every little thing, when in reality, your preceptors and rotation sites do not expect you to be a genius. If you were, you wouldn’t be in an internship! So don’t try to memorize every single lab value and medication on the market before starting clinical or spend countless hours reviewing your food service book – you’ll only make yourself crazy!
2.       Stayed organized and ahead of the game. You’re schedule is constantly changing, so my biggest piece of advice is learn organizational skills – and quickly! Invest in a planner or big wall calendar and map out all of your rotations that way you know exactly where to go each week. It’s also great to write down any due dates or homework assignments that are coming up. We’ve also learned about a ton of tech tools this year for organization like Wunderlist and Trello – these are nice to have in your back pocket…i.e. on your smart phone.
3.       Never be afraid to ask questions. If you never ask questions, you’ll never learn. I was always afraid I would appear “stupid” or “dumb” if I asked certain questions, but you’re preceptors are more than willingly to help out in any way they can, so ask! Many of your preceptors have had years of experience in the profession so they are the perfect people to look to for answers.
4.       Learn some patience. Because it will be tested at times. Whether it’s the hour and a half long one-way commute you have, or the patient who just doesn’t want to listen or cooperate, just remember things could be much worse. I promise all of the commuting is worth it! The experiences we get in this internship program are so unique and unlike many other programs so sometimes we do have to travel. And the patients and clients we see are what we will experience in the real world, so it’s just a matter of killing them with kindness to hopefully give them a small nudge to make a change – and don’t take it personally.
5.       Keep that chin up. There will be some days where things just won’t work out for you, or information won’t stick, or maybe you or preceptor just isn’t having a great day. Don’t fret! Just take a deep breath and remember that tomorrow is a new day.

And the bottom line is to HAVE FUN! It truly is a one of a kind experience that you get in your internship so make the most of it. If you make it enjoyable, it will be something you’ll never forget. You get out of your internship what you put in – so keep that in mind. It’s a learning opportunity that can only help you to grow in your knowledge and experience, so enjoy it! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dietetic Interns at Maryland Day

As our time in the University of Maryland Dietetic Internship comes to a close we have been given a variety of opportunities to get out of the classroom and put our nutrition knowledge to use throughout the community. This Saturday we had the privilege to attend Maryland Day in order to promote a healthy lifestyle to not only University of Maryland students, but also to members from the community around UMD and all of Maryland! It was a beautiful day and we all had an wonderful time playing with the children and providing education at the same time!

            Interns were stationed at two separate booths with different nutrition related activities. At my station we promoted portion sizing with MyPlate. We provided our audience with a myriad of handouts and magnets they could take home and share with their entire family. We attracted a large audience with a variety of food models that demonstrated proper portion sizing. It was very fulfilling to meet families that were interested in improving their diet, and introduce them to MyPlate.

            We were then able to add some fun and a competitive spirit into our booth with a MyPlate inspired beanbag toss. Children and families were challenged to throw beanbags into different food groups on our boards. Everyone had a great time and were able to win an educational coloring book with an assortment of activities for all ages. This enabled our participants to take the knowledge they learned while playing with us home to share with the rest of their family and friends.

            I had an amazing day out in the community sharing what I love with all of the guests at Maryland Day! Becoming a dietitian has enabled me to learn a lot and have fun at the same time!