Registered Dietitians in food banking: beyond MyPlate

A Registered Dietitian interacting with a client at a health fair.
March 9, 2016
by Adriene Worthington

When I started working for The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) in 2010, my primary role was to provide nutrition and food safety education to the food pantries and meal programs we serve. As a Registered Dietitian with a background in food service, clinical settings, and communication, it was a perfectly blended job for me. I understood very little about food insecurity but knew I wanted to apply my skill set to assisting people who we served. I wanted to give them tools that would empower them to try new foods and look at familiar ones in a healthier way.

Within the first year, I started many projects: revising our online recipe database Click N Cook, writing nutrition specifications for products we purchase, writing and implementing a warehouse-specific food safety course, modifying the food recall procedure and creating, analyzing and forecasting a cycle menu for seven self-run Kids Cafe sites. These initiatives were all nutrition-related and broadened my abilities, but what they really did was foster collaboration with other GBFB departments. This opened my eyes to the multi-layered nuances required to move food from its delivery to our docks and onto a family’s table, safely and efficiently. The system fascinated me. I loved how decisions my team made would directly provide people in need with means for better health outcomes.

We hired a second Registered Dietitian who took over the duties of teaching nutrition and food safety, allowing me to expand into a management position. This gave me time to really consider the possibilities and the bigger role we could play in GBFB’s mission to End Hunger Here. I began attending community meetings, bringing food insecurity into the conversation in settings such as the Department of Public Health’s MA Food Establishment Advisory Committee, the Boston Mayor’s Food Policy Council, MA Partnership for Food Safety Education and the state Nutrition Board, which I am now a governor-appointed member of. I facilitated the team that led to GBFB’s first scored AIB audit, a Superior rating. After reading Feeding America’s Spotlight on Senior Hunger, I petitioned to start a senior-focused SNAP pilot. I now oversee our federal food programs team responsible for SNAP and the newly acquired Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), as well as our agency relations and compliance teams.

My current role differs so much from when I was first hired, but the foundation of providing the best possible service and healthiest outcomes to the people we serve is still present. My day to day focuses on the resources my team needs to meet their goals and advocating for them and their ideas. I miss working with the people we serve, but the pride I feel in my collaborative and high-functioning team outweighs going back into the field any day.

*Adriene Worthington, RD, LDN, is the senior manager of nutrition and agency relations with The Greater Boston Food Bank. She has been with GBFB for over six years and continues to challenge herself and her team to embrace growth opportunities and calculated risks. 

**Photos courtsey of The Greater Boston Food Bank.