Update: 2020 Emmalee here! At the time of this update, the world is still overcoming a pandemic, so many of these examples might not be available. For a look at some more 2020-friendly options, check out my post on that here.
Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! It’s a great week here at TheFutureRD. I’m about to go on a backpacking trip in California next week and get away from this Texas heat. Fear not though, I have a post planned to go out next Tuesday, so be sure to stop by.
Today’s post expands on a theme in a post from a few weeks ago on summer opportunities and how the season is the perfect time to grow new skills. These experiences might be something you weren’t able to do or didn’t have time for during the school year.
One experience perfect for summer is volunteering! While I hope you can volunteer year-round, if you struggle to get consistent hours in, I’m right there with you. It can be hard to volunteer even when available if you’re tired, stressed, or short on extra study time. So if your summer is more open then you originally expected, use some of these ideas to fill your time, gain experience and connections, and most importantly, give back to the community!
Volunteering related to our field falls under three categories: clinical, community, and food service. 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 Volunteer Opportunities for Dietetics
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 digging on how to get involved. Either way, the hoops you have to jump through in the on-boarding process can feel similar to starting a new job.
In clinical settings, you may serve in a volunteer role close to a dietitian or serve in a 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 Volunteer Opportunities
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 or pantries in your area and see what their websites have to offer. Feeding America supports 200 food banks, each with multiple food pantries. Their website is a great place to start your search.
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.
Food Service Volunteer Opportunities
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 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 with getting out of the house or affording 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 help in the hospital kitchen, like this one in New York. Ideas in my local area included opportunities to plan weekly meals, pick up unused food from restaurants, and distribute food. If you want more volunteer experience in food service, start digging!
Volunteer for AND
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) 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.
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. 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 school’s website to see if there’s 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 their account 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,