A Day in the Life of a Dietetic Intern: 4 Things I Did at the Food Bank of South Jersey

Hello! My name is Nicole Andrews and I am currently an intern enrolled in La Salle University’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics.

For those of you that don’t know, this means that I will be completing 1,200 hours of supervised practice (while taking classes) in the three areas of dietetics: clinical, food service management, and community nutrition. After having completed all 1,200 hours and passing all required classes, I will then be eligible to sit for the national registration exam to become a registered dietitian.

Wow … when I write it like that it makes it sound so … simple!

With that being said, I am currently nearing the end of my first semester in community nutrition at the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ), and I cannot begin to express how sad I am to be leaving. There is much that could be said about my experience at the Food Bank, I couldn’t have picked a better community site. The Food Bank of South Jersey has done an excellent job in exposing myself and fellow dietetic interns to the various roles carried out in community nutrition. Furthermore, FBSJ has contributed greatly to my understanding and practice of community nutrition by allowing me the privilege of real hands on experience and observation of the daily tasks and responsibilities that go into running a food bank. Here are some of the things I did:

  • Performed recipe resting: As a strong lover of all things food and cooking, one of my favorite things to do while interning at FBSJ was testing recipes. This was done to ensure that recipes being used in certain Food Bank classes were delicious, nutritious, and would yield the appropriate amount of food needed to feed those participating in the class. In addition, recipe selection was dependent on the audience being taught. This was a significant part of recipe testing because the FBSJ fosters several classes and programs that teach a variety of populations such as children, adults, and seniors. During the recipe testing process, I was reminded and asked to apply the various food safety precautions everyone must take in order to handle and distribute food (yes, this involved wearing the very trendy hairnet). My favorite part however was at the end, when members of the health and wellness team would come together to sample the recipes to ensure that they were tasty and healthy. Usually, the intoxicating smells coming from the kitchen would help to recruit other taste testers from the Food Bank as well.
  • Developed learning activities for various populations: As a future registered dietitian, learning how to perform basic nutrition education is essential to the foundation of my skill set. After working with members of the Health & Wellness Department at FBSJ, not only have I enhanced my understanding of educating others about nutrition but also how to tailor a lesson to my specific audience. Before each and every class was conducted, members of H&W worked together to develop a lesson plan and activities for whatever population they would be teaching. In addition, props and other resources were consistently used to supplement the nutrition lessons taught in each class. The part I enjoyed the most was being a part of the creative process and being given the autonomy to come up with ideas myself. Thinking back now, I remember how nervous I was to do all this in the beginning however, after just a little bit of time with the H&W team, I began to feel more confident and comfortable in my abilities. The team even went as far as pretending to be a classroom full of rowdy kiddos just so I could practice my lesson plan on MyPlate and activity on shopping for healthy foods. I think the kids I taught were actually better behaved than the H&W team though. (Kidding…or am I?)
  • Practiced food demos: During my time at FBSJ, I was also given the opportunity to perform my first recorded cooking demonstration! This demo was filmed by one of my preceptors, Tricia Yeo, and was made to be used as part of a series of videos shown to Food Bank volunteers. Earlier on in my semester, Tricia and my other preceptor Adam Bricketto, had expressed that because of the rapid turn over of volunteers at the Food Bank, it might be useful to have a couple of videos on hand to educate and demonstrate important skills while in the kitchen. This led to the development of our video series which included content educating on knife skills, food and kitchen safety, proper dish-washing technique, and as previously mentioned, a bonus cooking demo as well! In addition, this project was taken on collaboratively by connecting with the Food Bank’s very own brand and digital communications specialist, Ashley Killen, whose skills in video making and editing were much needed. This experience not only allowed me to gain more confidence in my speaking and video presence but nurtured my passion for giving cooking lessons as well.
  • Saw the groundwork for running a food bank: Working at FBSJ has opened my eyes to the multi-layered nuances required to move food from its delivery to a warehouse and onto a family’s table. This was something I had limited exposure to, and had only learned about how it could be done during my community nutrition class at school. After communicating with different department heads and many workers at the food bank, I was able to witness all the pieces come together for delivering food to people safely and efficiently. FBSJ not only works to feed those in need but strives to educate those on how to eat nutritiously and sustainably within their means. My experience there spoke volumes to me about the people that go into this work and I can absolutely see why many of them love what they do. I am so fortunate to have been able to take part in FBSJ’s operation and work side by side with a team that was enthusiastic and emphasized how much they collectively enjoyed the rewarding aspects of their field.

I highly encourage any dietetic intern or volunteer to come contribute to the amazing work that the Food Bank of South Jersey does.

Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your experiences and for your contributions, talents and energies directed at helping South Jersey’s food-insecure communities live, eat and … be better.