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.