Over the last few months, our nutrition intern Tyler Blankenship has been busily working with our partner agencies. As a chef and current culinary nutrition student from Johnson & Wales University, Tyler has been able to combine his culinary experience and nutrition knowledge to assist agencies where they need it most.
What follows is a Q&A with Tyler.
Q. How did you work with our partners?
A. I worked with the Nutrition Manager as well as Agency Relations and Childhood Hunger Programs to identify partner agencies that needed personal attention.
I was able to take a hands-on approach with a Kids Cafe site by assisting them with menu planning. I also developed a survey for children at the site that resulted in valuable feedback—over 50 children completed it and were able to tell us what foods they’d prefer on the menus.
They were asked to identify their favorite fruits and vegetables; we then tailored a rotating menu around their preferences. Not only does this help the site select the right products to serve, but also engages the students; hopefully encouraging them to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables than they do now.
I also assisted with the Bites, Camera, Action program. Students at Memorial Middle School were invited to help me demonstrate the preparation of a 3 Bean Salad recipe. At first the kids didn’t like the thought of a bean salad, but after helping prepare it they were much more receptive to tasting it. We expected lots of leftovers. Surprisingly, when all was said and done, they were scraping the bottom of the bowl.
Some of the students took the recipe home after I explained that it was good for the prevention of diabetes and hypertension. They wanted to take the recipe home for their parents and family members who live with these conditions.
Q. Did you experience any challenges?
A. Many of the agencies I reached out to work very hard with few resources. When you’re stretched thin and wear many hats it’s hard to commit to more, even more of a “good” thing such as nutrition initiatives.
Q. What did you enjoy most about interning at Second Harvest?
A. I enjoyed being able to help people see food options in front of them. People don’t always realize all the different ways they can prepare food that’s readily available to them. For example, many of the middle school children didn’t like lima beans, but after they helped prepare the recipe and taste the beans in a way they hadn’t before, they ended up liking it. I enjoyed being a part of opening people’s eyes and showing them how they can cook healthily with food from Second Harvest.
The first step in healthier food preparation is awareness. Tyler was able to accomplish that and so much more.
We thank Tyler and are confident that our partner agencies have gleaned valuable information that they will put into action to help feed our Central Florida neighbors in need.
Maria Ali, RD, LD/N