Happy Spring! The air is warming, the sun is peeking out, and the flowers are up – all signs that spring is on its way in the PNW. Another sign of spring for me is the start of National Nutrition Month. Every March, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists across the country celebrate by inviting everyone to “learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits” (https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month).
Personalize your plate
This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate and focuses on eating a variety of nutritious foods each day, planning healthful meals to fuel us through school and work, and learning new culinary skills to create tasty meals at home. This theme emphasizes something that is near and dear to my heart – that we are all unique people with different bodies, backgrounds, and tastes! There is no “one size fits all” diet that is right for every person.
At HIP we work hard to provide healthy, delicious, culturally relevant food to those we serve. We want them to have a varied diet full of nutritious foods. We help people to actively engage in meal planning to stretch their budgets and fuel their daily activities. In short, we want people to have the choice to “personalize their plates” in the way that feels right for them.
For the School Meals program (my baby), I intentionally create menus that include a variety of fresh, whole foods – some familiar and some new – to nourish bodies, please bellies, and expand palates. In any given week, meals might represent the flavor profiles of five different food cultures represented in our community.
Our East African Senior Meals program is an example of HIP responding to the specific needs of a prominent cultural group in our community. The Wellness Weeks program (brainchild of rock-star AmeriCorps volunteer Claire) aims to introduce families to new recipes, cooking techniques, and wellness activities by providing educational materials and weekly groceries.
To expand personal choice, HIP has offered vouchers from ethnic grocery stores to clients who prefer to cook traditional foods that better suit their nutritional needs and preferences. HIP also delivers teff flour to East African clients who want to make their own traditional bread.
At right, Amy and her team pack School Meals.
We are ramping up our nutrition education programming this spring – stay tuned! Truly, HIP programs embody the spirit of National Nutrition Month every day of the year, which makes this Registered Dietitian Nutritionist very, very happy to be part of the HIP Team.
Amy Stackhouse, RDN, MSN, Fall Meals Coordinator – A.K.A. the Lunch Lady, WSC/AmeriCorps Member