Introducing DMARC’s Nutrition Advisory Committee
by Linda Gobberdiel, MA RD LD
We are currently in the middle of National Nutrition Month and what a great time to introduce DMARC’s Nutrition Advisory Committee! This relatively new group focuses on nutrition-related projects for DMARC and their food pantries.
Back in 2019, DMARC staff saw the need for having nutrition professionals available on a more continuous basis to help meet commitments in DMARC’s relationship with Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). Dietitians’ knowledge and expertise were needed to maximize nutrition in their food pantry inventory. There was also a need for simple recipes to be developed for pantry clientele, as well as nutrition educational materials, and classes.
DMARC staff reached out to me as a registered dietitian as I had worked with DMARC on developing the Food Pantry 2.0 point system. They asked if I would help form this new committee. I reached out to three registered dietitians I had worked with in the past. They reached out to others and before we knew it, our committee was formed. The group is now comprised of 10 nutrition and food professionals as well as three DMARC staff. Six of the committee dietitians are also available for nutrition and health-related questions from food pantry managers and clientele. DMARC staff set up a new email address specifically for these questions – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first committee meeting was held in December 2019. One of the first needs was developing 75 recipes for pantry clientele that needed to be approved by PHA. These were completed by March 2020. At this same time, the committee completed six nutrition education fliers, and planned classes including food demos. Then COVID hit, and many of the resources developed were put on hold as DMARC became consumed with the overwhelming need for emergency food. Group classes also had to be put on hold due to the pandemic.
The Nutrition Advisory Committee continued to meet via Zoom in September 2020. A recipe template was developed and committee members helped to place each recipe on the new template for printing. At our most recent Zoom meeting, committee members and DMARC staff discussed potential nutrition-related projects in anticipation of post-COVID activity and planning for DMARC’s new building and food pantry. Nutrition education fliers and classes will now be revived as well as researching other existing fliers and classes that might be used in DMARC’s pantries. Revision of the Food Pantry 2.0 scoring will help clarify protein sources and healthy fats. A new color scheme will help in educating clientele as they make pantry food choices.
Nutrition is key to health and to prevent the development of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Families and individuals who require emergency food are often at a greater risk of poor nutrition due to conditions such as poverty, lack of refrigeration and cooking facilities, poor dentition, and compromised health. When DMARC stocks the most nutritious foods that they can in their pantries and other food distribution points, clientele are supported not only in addressing their hunger, but also in supplying nutrients to support their health. Food can be as impactful as medicine. The position of DMARC leadership and staff in making nutrition a priority is forward-thinking and beneficial to all who use DMARC’s services.