Food Bank, UD project will study neighbors’ cultural dietary needs

March 7, 2022

March is National Nutrition Month! Throughout the month we will be highlighting the important work of our Nutrition team! Check out our blog and social media for new stories and posts! 

What does the Food Bank of Delaware need to do in order to deliver more culturally aware food to our neighbors who are in need? We’re laying a strong foundation to answer this question through a partnership with a University of Delaware­ – based research team along with our own nutrition and leadership teams.

Culturally aware food considers our neighbors’ dietary tastes based on diverse ethnic backgrounds, and that’s a concept already embraced by our nutrition team during informal discussions.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shannon Robson, a Registered Dietitian and associate professor in the College of Health Sciences’ Behavioral Health & Nutrition program at the University of Delaware, reached out to the Food Bank’s Community Nutrition Director Leah Brown in search of a collaborative project for graduate students in her Nutrition Program Planning and Evaluation class to gain experience in conducting a community needs assessment.

The Food Bank’s Food Distribution Director Michael Zeltt has also been at the table during these preliminary talks about the project to “survey our partners to see what we need to do better to be more culturally inclusive. The survey should be complete by May so that will give us a better understanding of where we are.”

Brown acknowledged that completion of the survey would be a starting point for providing culturally appropriate foods to our Haitian-Creole and Hispanic neighbors. “We want to get the right foods to our neighbors. We also hope to better reallocate food to our pantry partners by being more culturally sensitive to our neighbors’ needs,” she explained. The process involves a learning curve for not only Food Bank staff, but also pantry coordinators – usually volunteers – as well as talking with neighbors themselves.

During a web conference with the Food Bank’s nutrition team, Dr. Robson explained that the goal for the students will be to yield quantitative and qualitative data that will be useful to the Food Bank and our pantry network. This experience provides students, who are all aspiring Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, the opportunity to translate the information from the classroom into the community, while simultaneously helping the Food Bank of Delaware accomplish the goal of providing more culturally-appropriate foods.

Because a cultural shift is complex, Brown says the change will take some time. “It’s not going to change overnight but we have a vested interest in seeing this go forward. This is a good project, I’m so glad she (Dr. Robson) reached out to us.”

“It was a perfect scenario.  They’re helping us, and the students are doing something valuable and getting hands on experience. It’s important work,” Brown said.

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