Category: Nutrition

Nutrition Education: Support for Seniors in SLO County

A few months back, I had the opportunity to sit-in on a nutrition education class led by one of our dietetic interns, Sharmin. The class was hosted in Morro Bay at Ocean View Manor, a non-profit housing community for those 62 years of age or older. The topic of Sharmin’s class was “What to Eat When You Have Diabetes”.

When Sharmin began her lecture, the community room at Ocean View Manor was full; possibly due in part to the promise of a free dinner. Sharmin presented her lecture to the group, then opened the floor to questions. The room quickly filled with raised hands, and the residents began to ask their questions.

For many of us, finding the balance in our everyday lives of eating healthy and maintaining self-care can be difficult. Many seniors in our county face those same challenges with limited income, mobility, and independence— and we here at the Food Bank Coalition work to address those challenges.

Once the presentation was over, it was time for dinner to be served. The meal included slow-cooked chicken, lentil soup, and a fresh salad. Recipe cards for the dishes were provided, so seniors could make the meal at home. While Sharmin and I started serving food, volunteers from the group helped us bring plates to their fellow community members. Soon the room was overflowing with talk as residents dove into their dinner, and discussed the presentation they had just heard.

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Nutrition Education Classes for Older Adults

The Food Bank Coalition offers community cooking and food literacy classes at Ocean View Manor Apartments for older adults since the addition of a Senior Farmers Market program in 2017. The goals for the classes are to teach basic cooking skills and educate around various health topics relevant to the participants. Live, interactive food demonstrations of recipes that are healthy, easy-to-make, and delicious help them eat healthier and live well. We precede the cooking demos with presentations around interesting Nutrition topics.


Previous Classes

Fad Diets, What You Should Know: Joyce Huang, Dietetic Intern at Cal Poly, educated participants on currently trending fad diets, their potential risks and their validity. We busted many myths and it was really an eye-opening and enjoyable presentation for our participants.

Fiber: Olive Barnes, Dietetic Intern from Atascadero State Hospitals, presented on fiber, what it is, and how it benefits health. The participants found this very helpful and were very engaging in asking questions on the topics they found relatable.

Fats and Oils: Melissa Danehey, our Nutrition Program Manager, conducted this class to talk about why fats and oils are crucial for aging and also delved into the “good” and “bad” fats and how to make healthier choices.

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Limited Kitchen Recipes on a Budget

Navigating cooking at home with healthful recipes and ingredients can feel like an impossible challenge when it comes to limited kitchen space or time. Whether you’re a busy student or parent or have a lot of mouths to feed on a limited budget and lack of time, I get how frustrating it can be to ensure you’re maximizing you and/or your family’s health.

Hi, I’m Sarah. I am a dietetic intern with the Department of State Hospitals currently interning at the Food Bank Coalition. If you’re like me and love to cook, but either don’t have the time or are dealing with limited kitchen space, you’re probably in need of some guidance. Or maybe you simply don’t want the burden of preparing complicated meals with lots of ingredients. Perhaps you’re not home long enough to spend time preparing new recipes you find inspiring. Creating healthful meals with limited kitchen space, a budget, and being low on time can feel like an impossible feat!

For the next 10 months, I am living with a “partial” kitchen meaning I am limited to a microwave and a sink. This means when it comes to complicated cooking that requires several burners or fancy equipment, I am strapped. Because of where I live, I am also not allowed to have a hot plate or a toaster/toaster oven because of the fire risk. You may think that leaves me in a pickle! But you’d be surprised how this limited kitchen space has forced me to prepare creative, affordable, easy, and quick nutritious meals and snacks that are actually perfect for any busy professional, student, or parent.

Thankfully, I am allowed to use a crock-pot, or in my case an Instant Pot, which is a crock-pot, rice cooker, and pressure cooker all-in-one. The things you can make in this device are endless.

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8 Ways To Prevent Heart Disease

There is a lot one can do to lower your risk of heart disease. There are many factors that contribute to getting heart disease – some we can control and some we can’t. Learning about the factors that can reduce the risk and taking action will not only improve your health but will also make you feel better in general and ward you from other chronic diseases we as humans are prone to. Factors that we cannot control, or change are age, gender, family history or genetics, and race or ethnicity. Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce your odds of getting heart disease.

Taking these 8 measures will protect your heart and health. They will greatly reduce the odds of getting a heart disease or any other chronic disease that comes along with a poor lifestyle.

  1. Eat more whole foods: Adopt a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Limit your intake of saturated fats, high sodium foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and highly processed foods. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps in increased intake of fiber which is known to reduce the occurrence of heart disease. Adding oily fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fats like the salmon, can also help in improving heart health.
  1. Improve cholesterol levels: High cholesterol levels increase the risk of clogged arteries thereby increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol should be less than 130 mg/dL and HDL (“good”) cholesterol should be at least 50 mg/dL for women and 40 mg/dL for men. Diet and exercise play an important role in helping manage cholesterol levels.

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From The Food Bank Kitchen: Cranberry Turkey Chili

We got really excited when the County of San Luis Obispo asked us about filming a recipe video for Thanksgiving in our facility!

Our decision quickly fell on an easy-to-make, sweet and savory recipe that will come in handy when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers. You can use canned cranberry sauce and cooked turkey in this recipe. To make it extra healthy and wholesome, add chopped fresh seasonal vegetables. This dish will definitely warm you up on a cold, rainy day! Enjoy!


Servings: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 to 2 hours


3 cups of cooked turkey, chopped into chunks
1 can whole cranberry sauce
2 cans of beans (black, pinto, kidney, white or a combination), drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup white diced onion
3 ½ tablespoons chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic salt
3 cups tomato sauce
¾ cup salsa
Cilantro (optional)
Sour cream (optional)


In a large saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and onion. Sauté until onion is translucent and tender. Add turkey and stir together. Then, add all of the following: tomato sauce, salsa, cranberry sauce, chili seasoning, garlic salt, white kidney beans, and black beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for an hour, stirring occasionally. Simmer for up to 2 hours.

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A Day in the Life of a Dietetic Intern from Cal Poly State University

Hello, world! I’m Joyce, a University of Vermont alum and current dietetic intern at Cal Poly SLO. A dietetic internship is a required step in the process of becoming a registered dietitian. It’s comprised of over 1200 hours of supervised practice at various rotation sites. I spend Mondays in class with the other interns; the rest of the week we work at different rotation sites in the area.

I’m currently at my second community rotation where I’ll be spending four weeks with my preceptor, Melissa, the nutrition program manager at the SLO Food Bank. It’s only been a week, but I love it already. Every day is exciting and different. My very second day was action-packed.

Here’s a taste of what it’s like as a dietetic intern!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

6:15AM: My alarm rings, I hit snooze about 3 times, and eventually roll out of bed. Breakfast is the usual: two fried eggs, salsa, spinach, and cheese in two corn tortillas. I guzzle down a healthy dose of cold brew (black) and saunter out the door.

7:30AM: I arrive at work. This morning, I’m going on a home delivery route with Chuck. The Food Bank has a small home delivery program for people with limited mobility. We deliver groceries to those on the program every Wednesday. I search for Chuck to the best of my ability. (We’ve actually never met and I’ve never seen a photo of him.) As I’m walking towards the loading docks, a red pickup truck parks nearby. A tall man wearing a GleanSLO baseball cap steps out and asks if I’m Joyce. We found each other! Chuck and I head into the warehouse to make sure that we have everything we need and load up the pickup truck.

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The Life of a Dietetic Intern from the Atascadero State Hospital

I remember being filled with both excitement and nervousness as I made my way to the SLO Food Bank Coalition. On the drive there, I recall thinking to myself, “This is it, I finally made it!” This was my final community rotation of the 10-month long, Department of State Hospitals – Atascadero Dietetic Internship. A journey that has been stressful, overwhelming at times and challenging, but fulfilling all at the same time.  As I walked through the front doors of the Food Bank, I was greeted with a warm and welcoming smile. My preceptor, Melissa Danehey, was patiently waiting at the front desk ready to begin our first day.

Going into this rotation, I did not expect to have as much fun as I did. Our first week together, Melissa took me on a tour of the facility, introduced me to all of the amazing staff, explained her day-to-day duties, talked about all the services and programs the Food Bank has to offer, and briefly discussed potential intern experiences. We quickly jumped right into things with distribution site visits, where we ran nutrition booths, offered fun nutrition-related information and featured a themed food recipe for participants to taste; participated in outreach programs at local elementary schools where we hosted Children’s Farmers Markets or taught a nutrition lesson; and experimented with new recipes for our nutrition booths.

M favorite activity by far during my first week was the Children’s Farmers Market. The purpose of it is to introduce the concept to the children at an early age, give them the opportunity to select which fruits and vegetables they would like to take home and introduce a new variety of produce to them. The Children’s Farmers Market also simulates an actual market setting by allowing children to visit different stands and have them “purchase” produce with their play money. My favorite part about this experience was the interactions I had with the children. I had the opportunity to host a “Mystery Box” event at the Children’s Farmers Market. In this activity, I concealed a random fruit or vegetable inside a closed box and only allowed the children to use their hands to feel the item from within the box. The children then had to guess what the item was based on what they felt to win a prize. When this activity was announced, the children’s faces just lit up – they loved this activity! It was actually a challenge keeping all of the children in order and explaining and enforcing the rules of the game so that it wasn’t ruined for the others. At the end of the day, I left the school feeling appreciated and satisfied with the work I completed.

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Food Bank Adopts Nutrition Policy

Food is a basic building block of health and productivity, but some food can be harmful to us. We all know about allergies that can cause certain foods to kill those who are allergic to them. But there are a number of foods that are harmful to our health and while we made not have an immediate allergic reaction, they have the same effect of killing us over a longer period of time. We need to think of ourselves as though we were allergic to them. As much as we enjoy them, we need to know how much we can tolerate safely, and apart from that, treat them as poison.

We at the Food Bank recently adopted a Nutrition Policy because the population we serve is particularly vulnerable to foods that are not good for us. 40% of our recipients are children, and we want to help educate them as to what foods are harmful to their young bodies. We certainly don’t want to provide them with such foods, but rather with healthy food that their families might not otherwise be able to afford. 15% of our recipients are seniors, who also must be extremely careful of what they eat. Foods low in salt, sugar, and fat, are best for us in our older years.

  1. Avoid foods and beverages in which sugar is the primary ingredient (such as snack cakes, sodas and sugary cereals).
  2. Consume whole grains for carbohydrate options in breads, cereals and snacks.

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