Hi! My name is Allison, and I am a dietetic intern from the University of Houston. I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at the Galveston County Food Bank. My time at the Galveston County Food Bank exposed me to a variety of responsibilities and roles that nutrition educators take on in the community, including teaching nutrition classes, leading cooking demonstrations, creating recipes and educational materials for the food bank’s clients, and developing unique interventions to create a healthier community.
During my first couple of weeks at the food bank, I worked with the Senior Homebound Program Coordinator, Ale. The Senior Homebound Program provides supplemental food boxes that cater to specific health conditions that seniors in the community face, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney disease. The boxes designed for kidney disease include food products moderate in protein and low potassium, phosphorus, and sodium. I also created nutrition education pamphlets to include with these boxes, specifically related to congestive heart failure, the DASH Diet, and the importance of hydration. Ale and I also helped assemble these special boxes with volunteers for distribution. I loved being a part of the volunteer team, helping with the box construction, and seeing the outcome.
Featured is a picture of me next to the chalkboard design that I created for January. I tied in fun nutrition puns with the beginning of the new year to encourage clients and staff to have a positive start to their year. In December, I created a holiday-themed chalkboard for the winter holidays. The handout that went along with this chalkboard included budget-friendly holiday tips and a budget-friendly soup recipe to stay warm during the holiday season.
I also created lesson plans and activities for several elementary school classes. For a lesson plan about family meal planning and teamwork in the kitchen, I created a matching game for the class. Four tables were used to display four images: a refrigerator, a cabinet, a pantry, and a dishwasher. Each student was given four small images that they had to sort between the four tables with images. The students then took turns to tell the class about the images they had and where they placed them. For example, if a student had an image of a can of peas and another image of strawberries, they would place the strawberries in the fridge, canned peas in the pantry, and then share with the class what they did.
I had another opportunity to create an activity for an established lesson plan. The lesson plan was an introduction to the OrganWise Guys, cartoon characters that resemble organs and emphasize the importance of healthy foods and lifestyle for healthy organs and a healthy body. The activity that I created included a large visual of the OrganWise Guys and different food models evenly distributed amongst teams of students. One by one, each group would share with the class what food items they had, what part of MyPlate they belong to, what organ benefits from those food items, and why that organ benefits from those food items. For example, one of the teams had an apple, asparagus, whole grain bread, and a whole grain tortilla. I asked the team what those food items have in common (fiber), and what organ specifically loves fiber! I loved getting to see the students critically think and work together.
I also led a lesson plan. This lesson plan included a review of the OrganWise Guy, a presentation about diabetes, and a fun coloring activity! In all the classes that I got to be a part of, it was especially rewarding seeing the excitement, interest, and knowledge displayed by the students.
For much of my time at the food bank, I also worked with Aemen and Alexis, two of the nutrition educators at the food bank, on the Nutrition Department’s Corner Store Project. The goal of this project is to create interventions for corner stores to implement to increase access to healthy food items. I helped Aemen and Alexis in the assessment phase of this project, which included visiting several corner stores in Galveston County and assessing the healthy products offered at each location. We looked for fresh produce, low-fat dairy, whole grains, low-sodium nuts, and canned food items, 100% fruit juice, baked chips, and more. We also observed the layout of the store and the visibility of healthy food items. We identified small layout changes and nudges that the corner stores could implement to make a big difference in the corner store’s customers’ purchasing behavior.
Another large project that I completed was a Nutrition Toolkit for the Salvation Army. For this project, I worked with Karee, the nutrition education coordinator. Karee oversees Healthy Pantry, a project that develops and nurtures partnerships between the food bank and local food pantries. The Salvation Army in Galveston recently partnered with the food bank and developed a food pantry. The Salvation Army needed nutrition education resources, so Karee and I visited their facility and assessed their needs. One of their largest needs was nutrition material to bridge the transition of clients from living in the shelter to moving into their residence. Therefore, I created a Nutrition Toolkit that included general nutrition information emphasizing MyPlate, budgeting, food safety, navigating government assistance programs (highlighting SNAP and WIC), recipes, and more! I also created pre-and post-surveys for the Salvation Army to administer. The pre-and post-surveys will help assess the effectiveness of the Nutrition Toolkit.
My favorite part about interning at the food bank is the ongoing chance to learn and positively impact the community. I loved working with such a passionate, positive, and intelligent team. I am very thankful for the time I spent interning at the Galveston County Food Bank! I am excited to see the team continue to make positive changes in the community and look forward to going back to volunteer!