Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interns in Annapolis

This past week the University of Maryland College Park Dietetic Interns traveled to Annapolis to witness the Maryland government in action. We began our day with a video of the bill creation process and how a bill becomes a law. We then received a tour of the state buildings and a brief history of the many aspects of Maryland. Did you know the Maryland State House is the oldest state capital still in legislative use?

We then watched the Senators and House Delegates of the Maryland General Assembly in action; as bills were vetoed or passed into law following heated debates and discussions. It was fascinating to see these minds in action, each with the intention to better the lives of their fellow Marylanders. We were given the unique opportunity to witness the presentation of a specific bill to hopefully be passed into law in Baltimore County, MD. This law will positively impact the lives of many children and families in the Baltimore County communities, and I anticipate to learn the outcome of the constituents' efforts.

Finally we met with Senator James Brochin, who explained some of the bills he's involved with and passionate about throughout this Assembly. He and his team opened our eyes to chairmen/ chairwomen, council members, lobbyists, and the many other members of political action. We learned the roles each play in bill and law creation, and how many of their actions impact our everyday lives. As a clinician, I compare it to ICU rounds; me as a lobbyist, advocating for nutrition support to a physician, a chairmen, who is hesitant to begin enteral feeds.

Fresh from completing my rotation at the Center forNutrition Policy and Promotion, this day in Annapolis was extremely interesting to me. I already knew the importance of adequate policies to generate change toward a healthier America; however, I didn't realize the small initiatives I as an individual (both clinician and civilian) can create to ignite change. In addition to voicing my opinion and creating change for a healthier America, I can voice my opinions regarding the direction of my profession and the laws that specifically impact my future practice. As a future dietitian I will be able to advocate for my profession and for the greater good; a basic civic privilege.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What's Cookin?

Ever wonder what kids are eating at school these days? In just one week, I learned the intricate details of how the lunch program of Montgomery County operates and serves its clientele. 

With over 200 schools in the county, the central production facility must always be one step ahead and prepared for anything. I admired the diligence and work ethic of everyone who contributed to the program; from the food prep workers all the way to those who serve the meals.

Although I was only there for one week, I was able to learn a lot and to help out in many different ways. I had a front row seat to the meal preparation process through a tour of the central production facility, allowing me to see how everything is handled and prepared. I was then able to assist on the other end of the food service spectrum, by preparing lunch at one of the county middle schools. I enjoyed working with the kitchen manager; it was obvious that she loves her job and loves the students.

One of my favorite aspects of the rotation was surveying the elementary school children during their lunch. My partner Becky and I asked the kids about their meals and what they thought of the school lunches. It was a great opportunity to get feedback and hear their suggestions about what they would like served. I was impressed that several of the children requested fruits and vegetables, such as pomegranates and eggplant.

Overall, I was encouraged to see how much time and effort goes into providing these children with a healthy lunch. 

Korean BBQ Theme Meal at Riderwood Village

I can’t believe our 6-week foodservice rotation at Riderwood Village is almost over!  A large portion of our time was dedicated to creating a Korean BBQ theme meal for the seniors, which was particularly exciting for me because my family is from South Korea.  Not only was I thrilled at the chance to cook my favorite dishes but many residents shared stories with me about living in Korea and loving the food.  Christina and I spent the past few weeks learning our way around the kitchen, bonding with the dining services staff, advertising our event and perfecting the menu for our theme meal. 

In the blink of an eye, our first four weeks were over and our production week began. We chopped, skewered, grilled, and marinated our way to the big day, and it was a huge hit!  More residents attended than we had anticipated, and more than once, we thought we were going to run out of food.  But with the quick thinking of the chefs and cooks and the great service provided by the RAs and wait staff, we were able to provide a taste of Korean cuisine to 160+ residents.

Now that the chaos and excitement is over, I can sit back and reflect on what a wonderful time I’ve had so far.  From the moment we started our rotation at Riderwood, Christina and I received an enormous amount of support and encouragement from the residents and staff.  I learned a great deal about planning ahead, preparing for the worst, and the importance of having strong communication skills.  I also learned a few new tricks in the kitchen that I look forward to using at home.  I couldn’t be happier with how our theme meal turned out, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to intern at Riderwood Village.

Monday, March 3, 2014

DC's Healthy Schools Act: An Intern’s Look into the Current Status and Future Directions

Just a few weeks ago, my internship partner Kevin and I had the opportunity to visit the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia (DC) school system. We were able to work with the Wellness and Nutrition Services Division, getting a look into what they do in the schools and community based organizations to promote positive healthy behaviors in children and youth in DC. It was such a great experience where we learned so much about public policy, specifically the DC Healthy Schools Act.
In May of 2010, the DC Healthy Schools Act (HSA) was passed by the DC City Council. The legislation ensures that schools are a healthy place for all students. Children spend a vast majority of their day in a school-related environment, making it a great opportunity to intervene. The act includes provisions addressing school meals, farm to school, school gardens, local wellness policies, healthy vending, fundraising and prizes, physical activity, physical education, and health education. The Wellness and Nutrition Services Division has a Healthy Schools Act Initiative that was established as a component of the implementation of the HSA.
            Almost four years have passed since the legislation was enacted, so the status of this is now able to be evaluated. Kevin and I had the opportunity last Monday to attend a conference at American University where they discussed the current status and future directions of the act. It was very interesting to see what progress has been made, but change does not happen overnight. There are so many details and factors that play into the outcomes and a joint effort needs to be made to achieve success. Washington, D.C. has become so proactive in the health of their youth and ventured into unchartered territory in the public policy arena. From their challenges and successes, this could be a call-to-action for school systems everywhere, where nutrition professionals, especially registered dietitians, can give their expertise and play a leading role. Let’s hope this becomes a wide-spread inspiration to better the health of our youth.

For more information on the DC Healthy Schools Act, visit: