Improving access to healthy foods in Atlanta

Joy Goetz
March 21, 2017
by Colleen Callahan

Joy Goetz began her career as a Registered Dietitian (RD) counseling people in need with fragile health. As she worked with her patients, she saw that many of them struggled with hunger and didn’t have access to the healthy foods she was working to promote. Joy realized that without access, all the nutrition education in the world couldn’t help the people she served improve their health.

Joy began to look for ways to get involved in ending hunger by improving access to healthy foods for people in need. When a position with Atlanta Community Food Bank opened up last year she was eager to apply. Atlanta Community Food Bank is the largest charitable food provider in the Atlanta area, and Joy knew that working with the Food Bank would give her the chance to influence the food that is distributed in underserved communities, and help create greater access to healthy foods while providing nutrition education at the same time.

Currently, Joy serves as Nutrition and Wellness Programs Manager at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In her role, she’s responsible for advocating and consulting on nutrition-related issues within the Food Bank and with community partners. This includes curating the content of boxes of nutritious food to distribute at schools, working with hospitals to set up screenings to determine if patients face hunger and referrals to pantries, and working with Feeding America on the FRESH Food project — a project aimed at developing a dietary intake survey for people using food pantries that will help us better meet the specific needs of their diets.

“I love being involved in an organization that not only has so much influence on what people eat — but also cares so deeply about the health of the people we serve,” Joy said. “The position I have was created in 2013 and since then they’ve added another RD position as well. It just demonstrates their commitment to improving our community’s health — and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Joy is one of 60 Registered Dietitians currently working in the Feeding America network of food banks. In recent years — as the intersection between hunger and health has become clearer and the Feeding America network has increased its commitment to nutrition — more and more food banks have seen the value of having Registered Dietitians on staff. People facing hunger are disproportionately affected by diet-related disease — such as type 2 diabetes and obesity — so it’s important to provide them with more than just food, but knowledge to improve their health. That’s where the Registered Dietitians step in.

“RDs can help food banks in so many different ways,” Joy said. “Food safety, recipe development, health education and creating community and healthcare partnerships. I think creating partnerships is particularly important right now. The more places we can connect the dots and pool our resources, the more we can increase the likelihood that we’re reaching people with the services they need.”

Joy continues: “Hunger is heartbreaking. And it’s even more heartbreaking when you see the health issues that accompany it. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of solving hunger in my community through improving health. I know it makes a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people in need.”

Tags: Hunger Heroes , Produce & Nutrition , Georgia , Atlanta Community Food Bank
 

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