Friday, November 29, 2013

Celebrating a Happy Thanksgiving with the Campus Dining Staff

As a dietetic intern with the University of Maryland I got the unique opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with the campus dining staff and student body. My last three days of this exciting rotation held three completely different experiences all themed after the upcoming holiday.

The festivities started as I acted as a food runner at the dessert table during the annual Thanksgiving meal served to the student body. My first task was artistic and fun, I was able to arrange the variety of pies and pastries in a visually appealing manner at the dessert table to entice the students over. As the night picked up I was in a constant flurry from the serving area to the kitchen fighting the crowds to keep the desserts stocked. It was a great experience to interact with the student body and the campus dining staff.

The next day we turned our efforts from food service towards employee wellness, as we compiled an educational wall to promote a healthy holiday to the campus dining staff. We provided many suggestions such as:
·      Controlling your portions by limiting yourself to 3 ounces of turkey and 1 cup of mashed potatoes.
·      Bake your turkey instead of fry.
·      Reduce the fat content of your meal by switching to yogurt in place of sour cream in mashed potatoes, or using oil instead of butter.
·      Exercise with your family by playing football at halftime, going on a walk, or taking a bike ride around the neighborhood.
The wellness wall turned out great check it out!

My final day at campus dining included a gourmet Thanksgiving meal where my rotation partner and I were transformed into chefs. Through the help of Chef George and many others at University of Maryland we produced a delicious meal consisting of a butternut squash salad, roasted sweet potatoes with caramelized red onions, green bean acorn squash carrot cheddar au gratin, stuffed turkey breast with red wine demi, and southern peach cobbler. As we enjoyed our fantastic food I was able to show off all the great work we had accomplished during our three weeks at campus dining.

This rotation was full of exciting opportunities and we were sad to see it go, but cannot wait to see what the rest of our internship has in store for us!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Finding Your Voice

The dietetics profession is very broad and diverse in types of jobs and clientele. Because everyone must eat to live, anyone can be a potential client. However, the same approach cannot be taken to communicate with all groups. A message that may resonate with one group may be irrelevant, confusing, or even offensive to another group. Finding the correct tone, voice, and message is essential to effective communication to a target population. During my first few months in the University of Maryland Dietetic Internship Program I have had the privilege of working for several different organizations that serve very different populations, and finding the correct message and voice to reach my target population has been an ever changing challenge.

At my first rotation, I worked at Riderwood assisted living community in the dining services department. One of my major assignments was to plan, advertise, and carry out a 120 person themed meal event for the residents. My target population was older adults who were retired and in the golden years. Much of this population was not very tech savvy, so more old- fashioned methods of communication were paramount to involving this group. Posters and flyers were essential to advertising, but great care had to be taken to make them have contrasting, easily readable colors and a large font size so that they could actually be read. Also, the seniors would become very engaged by just chatting with them, and would become much more interested if you took the time to interact- very different from my generation’s media centered interaction. 

My next stop was with the University of Maryland Campus Dining. During this rotation much of my time was spent developing educational posters, flyers, and table tents for both employees and students. Creating materials for the students tended to focus on how to improve the health of activities they typically engage, such as how to make football Sunday healthier, or how to eat healthy on a road trip. Materials for the workers had to be simpler, easily followed messages about increasing exercise and healthier eating that would be easily understood and affordable. Making materials for both groups taught me about how to realize who I am writing for, and what will strike a chord with each group.

Most recently, I have been working at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) whose mission is to effectively communicate science- based information about health, food safety, and nutrition for the public good. Because materials are developed for the consumer at large, creating a message that is easily understood and can be followed by large groups of people is a perpetual challenge. People are all different and a message developed for the largest common denominator consumer may not be applicable to many. Because IFIC is a company funded by its member companies it is important to never demonize any food, drink, or product. Positives much be emphasized at all times, so the message should always be what to do, not what someone should not be doing. It can be difficult as a nutrition professional to ignore personal opinions and thoughts when writing, but is imperative to being unbiased.
As shown above, my target audiences vary massively from week to week. At first it was a challenge to find my voice in order to send the message I want to be received, but with practice it is now one of the first things I begin to think about when I write. My takeaway from all this is to consider the needs, lifestyle, and desires of who you want to reach and find the common ground where communication can begin. If you can find your voice, your audience will listen.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What I have learned from My Hands on Experience at the FSNE

I just finished the two weeks of community rotation at FSNE, where I had the opportunity to work with an amazing and honorable group of people who in a gentle way, are making a difference in our communities. Maryland’s Food Supplement NutritionEducation(FSNE) offers nutrition education programs to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP-eligible families. FSNE programs are provided at no cost and work in collaboration with other community agencies serving SNAP-eligible individuals and families, such as, local food banks, soup kitchens, WIC offices, senior centers, community centers, neighborhood groups, and homeless shelters.

    Before starting my rotation at FSNE, I wondered how I would transition to community nutrition when I had just finished 10 week clinical rotation at Union Memorial Hospital spending  so much time thinking about medications, tube feeding formulas, and CHF patients. I learned at the very beginning of my community rotation that it would be a smooth transition from one rotation to the next. By planning ahead of time, being organized I had a smooth transition from one area of dietetics to the next. Moreover, I had great experiences during my time at FSNE and created great memories to look back on later. 

Driving from school to school and working with different educators, parents and teachers in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Saint Mary’s county and Prince Georges County, I learned the value of a collaborative approach to education. Not only did I enjoy spending time with Pre-K, learned so much about community nutrition and how it impacts the lives of parents, teachers and students. While walking from class to class, I saw how students were interacting with the FSNE educators and asking when the next nutrition class would be. This made me realize that there is no more direct way to positively impact children's food choices than what FSNE does in the classroom.  From different food tastings, I learned the importance of exposing kids to new foods while they are young. Seeing the students making lettuce wraps with shredded sweet potatoes and fresh sliced apples, I had one of the best experiences of my life.

          In the end, my two weeks at FSNE taught  me so much that cannot be summarized in one blog, but may be summarized in one quote—“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.