By Angela Brown, Nutritionist, Brockton, MA WIC and president, Boston Organization of Nutritionists and Dieticians of Color (BOND of Color)
They called the next participant; a woman and her child exited the waiting area to meet at my desk. I introduced myself and asked, “How are you doing today?” She reluctantly answered, “good” with disinterest in her eyes. I detected a Spanish accent which prompted me to ask which language she preferred to conduct the appointment in. She immediately perked up and replied, “I’m so happy you speak Spanish… my English is not good.”
Our WIC office serves many immigrant families who have traveled to the states and do not have a steady income. They are accommodated by relatives with a place to sleep and usually must fend for themselves for everything else, including food.
Like other federal nutrition assistance programs, WIC’s food package helps to supplement a household’s food budget, increasing participants’ food resources and helping to tackle food and nutrition insecurity. Nutrition educators are a critical ingredient to helping the USDA promote and elevate nutrition security.
Here lies my passion for nutrition education. I continued the appointment in Spanish and found that mom prepares “soup” for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mom elaborated on what “soup” meant to her family when I began naming some ingredients. By the end of the appointment, we had come up with ways to vary the family diet. Not by giving her a stack of new recipes, but by incorporating healthful changes like deep green vegetables into her soups.
In the words of Secretary Vilsack, “Every day I look at my plate…some days I’m right on target, other days, not so much.” When I counsel, I like to discuss that food is part of our everyday lives and is woven into our culture. This means that the MyPlate isn’t one size fits all. It’s adaptable.
Government leaders and nutrition educators are having more progressive conversations around advancing nutrition security with the collective goal of achieving a sustainable, healthier nation, meal by meal.