Volunteer Opportunities

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! It’s a great week here at TheFutureRD. I’m gearing up to go on a backpacking trip in California next week and get away from this Texas heat for a bit. Fear not though, I have a post planned to go out next Tuesday, so be sure to stop by next week.

Today expands on a theme in a post from a few weeks ago on summer opportunities. I briefly shared how summer is the perfect time to grow in new skills through experiences you might not be able to do or have time for during the school year.

One experience perfect for summer is volunteering! While I hope you do volunteer during the semesters, if you struggle to get consistent hours in, I’m right there with you. It can be hard to volunteer even when you are available if you’re tired, stressed, or short on extra study time, all of which is very common, especially at the end of the semester! So if your summer is more open then you originally expected, use some of these ideas below to fill your time, gain experience and connections, and most importantly, give back to the community!

Volunteering related to our field falls under three main categories: clinical, community, and food service (similar to the main components of the dietetic internship!) Thus, I’ve sorted what I found accordingly. I also included an “Other” category, because not every idea fits so neatly into one box.

Clinical

Clinical experiences are at the very least a possibility anywhere that cares for patients. All you have to do is ask! While bigger hospitals and centers might have a volunteer program set in place, other care facilities might require you to do a little research. Either way, the hoops you have to jump through in the on-boarding process feel similar to starting a new job. You may end up in a volunteer role that puts you close to a dietitian or you might serve in a more general capacity. Wherever you end up, a clinical volunteer job is a great way to become comfortable with a healthcare setting, and shows you are willing to put in the time and energy to commit to a serious volunteer job.

Community

When I think of nutrition-related volunteering, community-related jobs are the first ones to come to mind! Community opportunities include food banks and WIC centers.

At food banks you’ll have chances to sort donations, pack bags or boxes ready for families to use, or help with the shopping days. To learn more, search for food banks/pantries in your area and see what their websites have to offer.

WIC is a government program that provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum moms, and their children from birth to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. Depending on the state, some WIC clinics take volunteers to stretch their budget. If you’d like to know more, find and contact the Director of your state’s WIC program here.

Food Service

Food service is trickier to find volunteer jobs in compared to the average nutrition volunteer opportunity. Ideas include Mobile Loaves & Fishes or Meals on Wheels, and other basic food prep jobs.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes is an organization that sends out trucks to low-income areas several days of the week with simple, ready-made meals. They have teams that make the food ahead of time for the trucks. Meals on Wheels operates similarly, but targets seniors who have difficulties that make it hard for them to get out of the house or afford groceries.

Other opportunities may depend on your location and I’d encourage you to look into hospitals or volunteer databases. Hospitals may offer students with a culinary or nutrition background the chance to come and help in the hospital kitchen, like this one in New York. When I looked up ideas in my area I found opportunities that focused on weekly meal planning, picking up unused food from restaurants and weekly distribution of food at a central location (a non-mobile Mobile Loaves & Fishes!). If you want more volunteer experience in this area, start digging!

Other Ideas

Volunteer for AND

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics relies on the help of volunteers, especially professional RDs. Fear not though, because there are still chances for dietetics students to get involved! If you’re interested in being a Dietetic Student Representative for the ACEND Board (which controls the accreditation process for CPs, DPDs, and dietetic internships), recruiting for the academy, or writing food-related articles, check out AND’s volunteer page here.

Work in a Community Garden

Who says we only have to discuss or handle food inside? Farming and gardening are important resources for the food chain and community gardens can be a fun way to learn more about plants’ part in that chain! To learn more, go to your local government’s or even your school’s website to see if they have information on a community garden in your area.

Use Your Skills for a Nutrition-Related Cause

Finally, just because you’re a future #RD2Be doesn’t mean you should ignore your other skills! Not only do your skills, talents, and experiences define you and help you stand out; they also are ways you can make a meaningful contribution to the field. Fluent in another language? Use that to reach potential clients or help translate at a food bank! Is your personal Instagram fantastic? Maybe you could help a nutrition-related non-profit get theirs off the ground. I may be giving you more obvious examples, but you know yourself better than I do. Use your strengths to your advantage and help make a difference!

Where do you enjoy volunteering?

Until next time,
Emmalee

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