March 13, 2013
by Helen E. Costello

Helen Costello, RDThis post is provided by Helen E. Costello, MS, RD, LD, Program Manager for Feeding America member New Hampshire Food Bank. March 13 is National Registered Dietitian Day and March is National Nutrition Month.

More people in the United States who rely on the emergency food system look to agencies of food banks for their daily groceries.(1) At the same time, most of the causes of premature death in the United States are from nutrition related disease which affect families with limited resources disproportionately. Food banks increasingly recognize their role in public health and are responding to the need in a variety of ways. These range from creating the capacity for member agencies to accept produce, meat and dairy products to forming policies for sourcing and accepting a healthier range of foods. Along with these efforts rising numbers of Registered Dietitians (RD) now work in food banks.

At the New Hampshire Food Bank we employ three RDs. My role is the development, implementation, evaluation and oversight of four outreach programs. The other two positions held by RDs at our food bank are the Cooking Matters Coordinator and the SNAP Outreach Coordinator. Our job descriptions do not require an RD credential, however, our backgrounds bring added value to our positions and organization. In addition to food, health and nutrition, there is a broader range of skills that we bring to our work. Trained in management, research, counseling as well as nutritional sciences and food safety, our group also holds advanced training in food policy, nutrition education and public health. That variety of skills provides a solid base to promote nutrition concepts in a sensitive and fun way to a vulnerable population.

Attention to nutrition education for food pantry clients appeals to food bank supporters who recognize the food bank as one part of the solution to decrease the health disparities among clients served by our agencies. During National Nutrition Month we also challenge our co-workers to think about their personal nutrition and help our agencies send that message out to their clients. Looking around the Feeding America network and the food banks that are conducting nutrition education, I think what we all do is try to make nutrition education fun and accessible. We are willing to be patient as we ask our food banks, our agencies, and their clients to make changes within the emergency food system that enable us to contribute to closing the gap in health disparities among our clients who struggle to put food on the table.

1. Food Banks, Hunger's New Staple. FeedingAmerica, 2011. Accessed on Feb, 28, 2013

Tags: Nutrition , New Hampshire Food Bank

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