March 11th is Registered Dietitian Day, which was created by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2008. The Academy chose the day to increase awareness of these professionals who work in nutrition and food services and their commitment to helping people to lead happy and healthy lives.
Moveable Feast is fortunate to have four community dietitians on staff who make home visits to clients and provide nutritional assessments. During these visits, dietitians educate clients on better eating habits and how it will benefit them, and together they build attainable healthy goals.
Meet our team of community dietitians who we honor today and thank for their tremendous dedication to the clients we serve.
Ilene Cervantes Del Toro – Nutrition Services Manager
Ilene’s initial interest in nutrition began when she was trying to get “wedding fit”. While combining a strict diet with exercising, she noticed for the first time how the foods she ate affected the way she felt. During this time she was teaching high school in Baltimore City, and she saw how food insecurity impacted her students. It was her interest in food access and health that led her to apply for the MSPH/RD program at Johns Hopkins, and after graduation she began working at Moveable Feast.
“I love that nutrition, and specifically my role here at Moveable Feast, allows me the opportunity to meld together my love of helping others with food and education,” she said.
One of her most memorable moments at Moveable Feast was counseling a client who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. His family had just lost another relative to cancer, and overwhelming grief kept them from supporting him like he needed. Ilene’s father passed away when she was 12-years-old, and it saddened her to think about him not having family around during treatments and surgeries.
Ilene picked out a card for him and had many staff from Moveable Feast sign it. She wanted him to know that the Moveable Feast family was here for him. “I believe the work we do extends beyond just nutrition. We touch lives through the community we have created for our clients,” Ilene said
Olivia says she was drawn to the dietetic field because it combines her desire to help others, her love for food, and the alterating of eating habits to focus on a more healthful diet. Olivia works to set small goals day-to-day to lead a healthier life, which is also what she helps her clients achieve. She answers questions about nutrition using evidence-based knowledge to formulate her answers and debunk myths.
One of her favorite moments while working here was during a home visit with a client who was underweight and struggling to gain pounds. During a previous visit they had made a goal of trying to eat a high calorie, high protein snack twice a day and reviewed examples such as yogurt and fruit, half a tuna salad sandwich, fruit and peanut butter etc.
“The client was so proud to tell me about the snacks he was eating and excited he had gained a few pounds. Not only that, he had gained muscle mass too. Little changes can make a big difference!” said Olivia.
Growing up with a mother who was always cooking and nagging her and her siblings to eat carrots for their eyes and fish for good brain health, Isabel says she became health-conscious at a young age. “It simply made sense to me that nutrition could either make or break our health,” she said.
One thing that Isabel counsels our clients about is prioritizing which behavior or healthy goal they should tackle first. Many conversations focus on food, nutrition labels, cooking techniques and recipes.
Isabel says that she uses these same skills with her family and friends especially with the mass-media influence telling the world what to eat or what to avoid. “I feel like RDNS can ease the stress, stop the fearmongering and help people focus on what’s actually important at an individual level.”
When clients change their behavior and make better food choices, Isabel considers that a success. But “…de-stressing the relationship with food, empowering (them) with knowledge, and helping clients understand why food matters are by far the biggest wins…”
Shawnee Seitz (Eastern Shore)
In college, Shawnee was studying Chemistry and took a basic nutrition class her freshman year. What she enjoyed the most was that this dispelled a lot of nutrition myths she had been told. Her interest in these classes and the field led her to change her major to dietetics and eventually go on to become a dietitian.
Shawnee says she likes to use her knowledge and skills in her everyday life to make healthy choices for herself and her family, while also not being deprived of fun foods.
Her most memorable moment on the job so far was working with a malnourished client to help her restore her protein levels that were diminishing during dialysis treatments. “We set goals for amounts of protein to be consumed with each meal while also keeping nutrients of concern with kidney disease low.”