Hello! ? My name is Sarah Bigham, and I am a dietetic intern at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). I came to the Galveston County Food Bank for my 4-week community rotation in July 2022. My time with the food bank was a humbling experience. It was an enriching time that allowed me to create recipes, make food demonstration videos, teach classes, create handouts, and explore the impact of nutrition in the community as a nutrition educator. Namely, I got to see various community locations partnered with the Food Bank, learn about policies and food-assistance programs, and see the impact of disseminating nutrition knowledge to multiple age groups.
During my first week, I worked with Aemen (Nutrition Educator) to learn about governmental assistance programs, including SNAP and Healthy Eating Research (HER), and their curriculum. I learned about their specific impact on the food bank. For instance, they’re working to create a choice pantry with food labeled green, red, or yellow. Green means to consume often, yellow means to eat occasionally, and red means to limit. This is known as the SWAP stoplight method. I also learned about their partnerships with Seeding Galveston and the corner store project where they’re working to make healthier foods more accessible.
I got to go with Karee (Nutrition Education Coordinator at the time) to observe at the Moody Methodist Day School where I got to see how they use the evidence-based Organwise Guys curriculum, which utilizes cartoon organ characters to teach nutrition to children. The class covered diabetes, and I was impressed to see how knowledgeable the kids were about the pancreas. At the end of the week, I got to observe Alexis (Nutrition Education Coordinator) and Lana (Nutrition Assistant) teach the Catholic Charities class, which covered whole grains with a demonstration of hummus and homemade whole-grain chips.
I also got to help out at Galveston’s Own Farmers Market. We demonstrated how to make veggie chips and handed out flyers on how to limit sodium in the diet. We made veggie chips from beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. We made them with seasonings such as garlic powder and black pepper to add flavor without using salt.
I worked with Alexis, Charli (Nutrition Educator), and Lana for the remainder of my rotation. In my second week, I started working with the kids at the Moody Methodist Day School in Galveston. Alexis led the discussion on MyPlate, and I led an activity where the kids had to correctly identify whether or not the foods were in the correct MyPlate category. For example, five numbered foods would show up under the vegetable category, but two would not be a vegetable. The kids had to correctly identify the wrong ones with a show of their fingers. It was my first time teaching the kids, and I discovered that teaching children is something I love to do. It was rewarding to see them express their knowledge and interest in eating healthy.
Later in the week, we went to Seeding Galveston and the corner store. Here, I saw first-hand how partnerships and environmental changes impact nutrition. Signage on doors and the arrangement of the store stood out to me. It’s not typical to see corner stores promote fresh fruits and vegetables from the area, but this was an excellent change to witness. What the food bank does through their partnerships to make healthier options more available is part of what I loved experiencing.
In my third week, I focused on the Catholic Charities project. The food bank teaches a class there, and they are starting a new series in August. This time, the participants will get a box with all the ingredients needed to make the recipes we demonstrate in class. I spent the week creating recipes, making and filming them, and creating videos to put on the YouTube channel as a visual aid in making the recipe. It was my first time editing videos, but I built up my creativity skills here, and it was fulfilling to find affordable, accessible, easy meals for people to make on a budget that still taste great!
Pictured is me next to the chalkboard I designed in my final week. It went with a handout I created on SNAP and WIC at the farmers market. After assessing the community and seeing Galveston’s Own Farmers Market, I realized that not many people knew they could use SNAP at the market, let alone get their benefits doubled. I wanted to disseminate the knowledge to the community here so they can get the most out of their benefits and utilize a great source of fruits and vegetables that also aids our farmers in the area.
I also led two classes during my final week at the food bank. I used the evidence-based Organwise Guys curriculum to teach kids between K and fourth grade about organs and good nutrition. Both classes introduced the kids to the Organwise Guys characters. To help them remember all the organs, I created an Organ Bingo. The kids loved it, and it allowed me to quiz them on the organs with each call of an organ to help build their memory. Working with the kids quickly became a favorite task at the food bank. Not only was it fun, but extending nutrition knowledge to the kids felt impactful. It was something they were excited about, and I knew they would take their newfound knowledge home to their parents.
Working in the community, in general, felt like a direct impact. I got to assist at the mobile food distribution and volunteer in the pantry. Seeing the people come through and get needed groceries, and knowing we were doing something good for people made me feel like I was in the right place. I’ve found a new love for the community setting in dietetics. Coming into my program at UTMB, I was sure I wanted to be a clinical dietitian. While it’s still a large interest of mine, community nutrition has quickly become a favorite. It was an honor to spend time with the food bank and meet so many people in the community. Everything the food bank does is inspiring and admirable. To be a part of it is something I will cherish forever.