Tips for Working with the Food Insecure Population
Internships are designed to give you myriad experiences, and my favorite experience so far has been working at food pantries to provide nutrition education. Through working with the food insecure population, I’ve learned valuable lessons about how to communicate and convey nutrition information.
Get to Know the Community
I worked at food pantries located in urban as well as rural areas. Urban areas typically have more resources such as overnight shelters or places that provide monetary support. Rural areas tend to have pantries that are smaller, open fewer hours during the week, and draw from a greater radius of people. It’s important to be aware of the resources available to the community when talking with clients.
Present Your Information in an Easy-to-understand Manner
This doesn’t mean that you have to dumb it down — rather, think of it as presenting the information in a way that people who might have limited scientific or dietetic knowledge can understand. For example, when discussing canned vegetables, teach your clients one benefit of reducing sodium intake and suggest one feasible method of reducing sodium, such as rinsing canned vegetables.
Provide Handouts or Samples
Make food samples and provide recipe cards. This encourages conversation and allows you to have a wider influence, reaching more people.
Leave Judgments at the Door
You never know what the person who walks through the pantry door is going through. You are there to be encouraging, providing nutrition education and motivation!
Talk to the Clients
The most valuable lesson I learned while working with the food insecure population is that clients are people just like me. They also have struggles, worries and concerns. Sometimes they just want to talk to someone and know that they care. Begin by simply asking questions such as where are they from, what do they like to do or what foods do they like to eat. These basic questions may lead to deeper conversations and the client will leave feeling cared for.