When I was a freshly minted registered dietitian, I thought I was going to change the world of clinical practice. I began my career at Brigham and Women's Hospital, one of the teaching hospitals at Harvard Medical School. I spent my time addressing end-stage renal disease with specialized diet counseling and supporting patients recovering from surgery and trauma through tube feedings and parenteral nutrition solutions.
But the patients who truly touched my heart were the ones for whom I realized chronic disease was a result of lack of access to nutritious food. One was Bill, whose poorly controlled diabetes progressed to renal failure, leading to a need for dialysis and then a transplant. He told me he ate just one meal a day for the last two weeks of the month because there just wasn't enough food in the house. "And I'm sure not going to take food and make my daughter go hungry," Bill said.
Another was Miss Emma, who came to the hospital so often with infections in her foot that she eventually required an amputation. Her albumin was 1.9 (the normal range is 3.5 to 5.5). She had been told by many health providers to follow a strict diabetic and renal diet, but no one understood that she didn't have the cooking knowledge or food resources to cook creatively. So she ate what low-sodium, low-sugar and low-potassium foods she could get from the food pantry and corner store, ending up severely malnourished.
Today, I dedicate my life to addressing nutrition and alleviating hunger in communities through my work with Feeding America and as a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Food and Nutrition Security Workgroup.
Make your voice heard on this important topic. Respond to the Academy's malnutrition action alert! Then, keep fighting with these resources and ideas for getting involved to end hunger and malnutrition.
Resources to Use during Hunger Action Month and Beyond
- Learn the facts about food insecurity in your community.
- Stay current about food and nutrition security trends by participating in education opportunities from your Academy affiliates, DPGs and MIGs.
- Use resources offered on eatrightPRO and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.
- The Healthy Food Bank Hub is a nonprofit website developed by Feeding America and Kids Eat Right. Stay engaged by subscribing to their Healthy Food Bank Hub Digest.
- Conduct food insecurity screenings within your practice setting and work with local partners to make referrals for food access.
- Volunteer or otherwise support activities to address food and nutrition security.
- Respond to other Academy action alerts on food and nutrition security.
- Speak with legislators, community leaders and other health care professionals about the causes and solutions to food and nutrition insecurity.
- Share your preferred tools and best practices with the Healthy Food Bank Hub.
- Share your story about the impact of hunger in your community using the hashtag #HungerActionMonth.
- Teach students and interns about food insecurity and the role of Academy members in these efforts using resources from the Food Insecurity/Food Banking Supervised Practice Concentration.
- Engage in research activities through the Dietetics Practice Based Research Network to determine how RDNs can best relieve hunger and food insecurity.
- Lead community-based efforts to map and intervene in food and nutrition insecurity.