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Denise Goode (fourth from the right) at work in Wayside's kitchen.

This fall Wayside was lucky to have the services of dietician in-training Denise Goode. During her internship, Denise spent many hours working with volunteers and learning about Wayside's work. We recently spoke with her about the experience.

What did you find surprising during your internship at Wayside?

I think the biggest surprises were how many people Wayside reaches and the quality of nutrition in each of the Community Meals. All of the meals that I participated in were nutrient dense. Most meals were comprised of a main course, green salad and fruit salad. Kudos to Carly for putting so much thought and attention into the nutritional components of each meal produced in the kitchen.

What is your professional background?

At Wayside I’m a dietetic intern. In real life I own an endurance coaching company called The Sustainable Athlete, where we do individual coaching for triathletes, runners, cyclists and swimmers as well as group training and clinics. I’m also a nurse and have worked in the operating room for four years. 

What was your Wayside internship for and what were your duties?

My dietetic internship fulfilled my community rotation (240 hours). To become a registered dietitian you have to obtain a bachelor of science degree in nutrition and then do a dietetic internship (a total 0f 1,200 hours). The purpose of the rotation was to learn as much as possible about the operations at Wayside:  how food is rescued, their community partners (pantries and food donations), how the Community Meals work, how they utilize their volunteers and how the food ends up on the table at the Community Meals. My duties were to observe and participate as much as possible in all facets of the organization. I also taught some nutrition lessons to Learning Works.

What did you take away from your experience?

First off, going into this rotation I knew very little about Wayside. I think the most important take-away is the breadth and capacity of this program. They reach so many people in Portland and the surrounding areas with Community Meals, food donations and as suppliers to food pantries. 

I learned so many things, but one of the biggest things I learned is how important volunteers are to this organization. The volunteers at Wayside are wonderful! I enjoyed every minute cooking, prepping and laughing with them in the kitchen. I had so much fun getting to know these folks, and while each group had a slightly different dynamic, they all possess many of the same qualities: Kindness, generosity, caring and unselfishness. 

Each year in November my husband and I go to Mexico on a medical missionary trip to do surgery in southern Yucatan. I look forward to this trip all year long because it means that I will be spending a week with some of the most kind, generous, caring and unselfish people on the planet, most of whom I only see once per year. Wayside has reminded me how much I enjoy volunteering, and I definitely hope to continue volunteering with them after my internship is complete.

We often hear that cost can dictate the selection of calorie-laden, processed food over more expensive healthy food. Is it more expensive to eat healthy? What are some ways people, with small budgets, can select healthy foods, while meeting calorie needs?

It is not necessarily more expensive to eat healthily. You have to be a wise shopper. I often educate people to first create a meal plan for the week. The sales flyer at your local grocer can assist with this, as well as purchasing foods that are in season at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Food purchased during the peak season will be less expensive. 

Figure out what is on sale for the week and plan your meals around it. You should also plan for leftovers. Cook in bulk and use the excess for lunches during the week or use them to make other meals a few days later. Leftover chicken can easily become a stir-fry a few days later. 

Cook with dried beans, peas or lentils. These are very inexpensive, versatile and are great sources of fiber, protein, folate, iron and B vitamins. 

Pay attention to the “unit price” of each item you purchase. This will help you figure out which product is more economical. Store brands are usually less expensive than name brands. Convenience foods (frozen dinners, pre-cut vegetables, instant rice) are more expensive, so take the time to prepare your own foods and save money. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh and also less expensive. Look for items canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “no salt added.”

What are the major barriers for healthy eating?

In my opinion: cost, knowledge deficit, motivation and lack of time.

If you could share one thing about your Wayside experience, what would it be?

I really enjoyed working in the kitchen with the volunteers. I worked in the catering business for about 10 years, and this brought back many memories. The most memorable kitchen experience at Wayside was helping to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner. You can really get to know a person when you peel, cut and chop vegetables with them for hours. I also liked teaching the nutrition lessons to Learning Works. I taught one on added sugars in food and one on healthy snacks. 

What are your career goals? How do you think your time at Wayside will influence you?

My long-term goal is to become a registered dietitian and to develop a private practice focusing on sport nutrition, nutrition counseling and weight-loss management. I’d also like to write a book some day.

My experience at Wayside has made me more aware of food insecurity issues in the state of Maine. It has also taught me the value of teamwork. All of the employees work together to help people in the community who may be struggling with food insecurity. They are genuinely concerned for the greater good of others in the community. They are also very appreciative of their volunteers.