March has been named National Nutrition Month. It is a month that promotes the awareness of good nutrition and the important role it plays in an active, healthy life. We’re especially excited about this month because we recently started a nutrition and wellness program, headed up by our first ever staff dietitian to fulfill our commitment to promoting healthy communities through nutritious food.
The Food Bank has made great strides in the last two years towards highlighting healthy options for our 600 partner agencies.
In 2010, we were selected to be a part of a cohort of twelve food banks nationally that aimed to begin focusing on nutrition as a part of our core work. With the Healthy Options, Healthy Meals grant from Kaiser Permanente and MAZON, an organization dedicated to alleviating food insecurity, MAZON guided the cohort through two years of focused work to incorporate good nutrition practices at each of the twelve food banks.
We had started a Nutrition team at the Food Bank, but quickly realized we needed someone with incredible know-how to spearhead our nutrition initiatives. That’s where Janice Giddens came in, a dietitian with incredible experience in the healthcare and agriculture industries, in addition to community health program development and grassroots organizing. Just prior to coming on with us, she worked as the Food Security Coordinator at the Clarkston Community Center, a partner agency of ACFB.
Since Janice has come on, she has led cooking demos at partner agencies, worked with warehouse staff on food handling and a nutrition ranking system, and spoken with legislators, community groups, healthcare providers, partner agencies and university students on a wide range of topics. Janice created a local dietetic internship rotation that provides participants with an opportunity to learn about the unique role food banks play in influencing the health of our most vulnerable communities. The rotation is also a glimpse into the ways that social and environmental factors can shape health outcomes. She currently serves as a contributing member to the Nutrition Solutions Work Group, which is a part of the larger Future of Food Initiative, a collaborative effort between Feeding America, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and The National Dairy Council to increase awareness of food insecurity and improve access to healthy foods. One of the many projects that this group is working on is the creation of a nationally accredited dietetic internship program for food banks. In addition to Janice’s actions, our agency capacity grants and increased distribution of produce have been instrumental in our pursuit to put more nutritious foods on the plates of those we serve.
Throughout this month, we will be highlighting different facets of our nutrition initiatives as well as sharing some tips and tricks to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We want to hear from you, too. What are your favorite ways to stay healthy?
For more tips, tools and information on National Nutrition Month, visit their website.