National Nutrition Month at Second Harvest Food Bank

Since March is National Nutrtition Month, I got together with our Nutrition Manager, Maria Ali, and asked her some questions about the role of nutrition at Second Harvest Food Bank.

  • Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Is Second Harvest doing anything special during this month?

Yes, March is National Nutrition Month (NNM)! It’s kind of an exciting month for Registered Dietitians (RDs) because it’s also Registered Dietitian Day on March 14th. During the month of March we try to highlight the campaign, which focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

When I started working here I made a habit of bringing attention to the campaign during the month of March. We bring awareness of it to our partner agencies by posting NNM material in the lobby of our warehouse and in our Food News e-newsletters, and to staff by highlighting key messages in our monthly wellness tip posting. We also blogged about it last year promoting the annual theme. And I make sure to mention it when providing nutrition education out in the community.

  • What’s your title and role at Second Harvest Food Bank?

My title is Nutrition Manager. My position was created to support the food bank and their mission to fight hunger in Central Florida. With issues of obesity becoming more prevalent among Americans, food secure or not, concern for nutrition has come to the forefront. I provide nutrition education in the community to our various partner agencies, as well as food safety training. Internally, I help support and nurture the nutrition dialogue that occurs between departments, staff, and Board members. There are many thoughtful conversations going on behind the scenes at the food bank as we consider nutrition. We’ve even started a Wellness Program to support employee health. We kicked off the new year with a health fair in January. Staff loved it!

  •  Why is there a need for nutrition at Food Banks?

The obesity epidemic, in addition to the other health issues affecting American adults and children, coupled with the economic downturn and the increased need for food assistance, provides evidence that nutrition simply can’t be ignored. They go hand in hand. Research shows that food insecure populations aren’t necessarily losing weight by not being able to put food on the table. So what does this tell us? This reminds us that we can’t just focus on providing families with mass quantities of food without looking at the nutritional quality of the food. Another key component is educating families on how to eat healthy. Just because you provide someone with a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean they’ll eat it, especially if it’s not food their used to eating or cooking. Providing recipes and cooking education becomes key to helping families fill their tummies, while supporting their health and wellbeing.

  •  How does Second Harvest fit nutrition in its mission?

We are exploring the topic of nutrition in our organization and our approach to it. We have created a Nutrition Committee that consists of key community leaders to help us discern and see how we can best address our community’s needs. Little by little, we’re exploring how to blend the two together.

  • What projects are you currently working on? 

Currently, I’ve been providing nutrition education at two of our Kids Café locations, The Dr. J.B. Callahan Neighborhood Center in Parramore and the Eatonville Boys & Girls Club. The kids are full of life and very smart. They keep me on my toes. At Callahan I’ve been reviewing fruit and vegetable color families, while incorporating some physical activity to reinforce the lesson. The kids have to hula hoop while naming off fruit and vegetable answers to the question I ask. It’s fun to watch them try to do two things at one time. Surprisingly, the boys have been better than the girls at hula-hooping.

At Eatonville Boys & Girls Club, I’m working with the middle-schoolers and we are working through the U.S.D.A.’s Power of Choice curriculum. Making healthy choices, get up and move, food label reading, and portion control are some of the topics we cover.

Soon, our Agency Relations Manager and I will be creating a class for agencies that want to increase their nutrition knowledge to create a healthier pantry for their clients.

If you have any questions regarding nutrition at Second Harvest Food Bank please contact Maria Ali at

Maria Diestro
Online Services and Communicationa Manager


Author: Maria Shanley

Senior Digital Marketing Manager Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

One thought

  1. As a board member for the Joe R. Lee Boys & Girls Club, I can tell you that everyone has been so excited to have the Kids Cafe program at the Club. You guys do fantastic work. One of our volunteers said the kids get so excited to try new fruits and vegetables. They go ga-ga over strawberries! Thanks for encouraging healthy food choices.

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