In honor of National Dietitian Day (RD) and as part of Nutrition Month, we are highlighting Second Harvest Food Bank’s own RD, Caroline Pullen.
Caroline Pullen, RD, has been with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for more than five and half years, sharing her incredible knowledge with those who are struggling with hunger in our community.
Prior to the pandemic, Caroline would provide in-person nutrition education and resources to our agencies and programs. A typical day in the life of our RD would involve teaching afterschool nutrition and cooking classes at one of our Kids Cafe sites or senior nutrition lessons at local Senior Towers and Community Centers.
During COVID-19 closures, Caroline continues to create healthy, cost-effective recipes to handout at EFB (Emergency Food Box) sites to help our clients eat better and make their money go further, as well as advice our Partner Agencies on nutritional best practices.
We asked Caroline a few questions about her work at Second Harvest:
What drove you to a career in nutrition?
I’ve always loved food and wanted a career that helped people. Nutrition was the perfect fit! While in school, I never imagined working in food banking, but it quickly became my dream job once I spent time at Second Harvest during my internship.
Why is it important to have an RD on staff at a food bank?
Having an RD on staff allows Second Harvest to ensure we are providing a healthy mix of foods that meet the nutritional needs of our clients.
Poor nutrition and food insecurity are closely tied together as many individuals and families in our community face very difficult decisions, like are they going to pay rent or buy food? This results in 91 percent of our clients relying on cheap, less nutritious foods to feed themselves and their families to make ends meet.
To address this, food banks like Second Harvest are shifting their focus to not just providing food but making sure we are providing healthy foods as well as resources and information so our clients can live healthier lives. In 2021, Second Harvest gave out 11.5 million pounds of fresh produce and this number will continue to grow.
What surprises people when learning about nutrition?
The biggest surprise is that it doesn’t have to be hard to eat healthy! Eating healthy is simply increasing your fruits and vegetables, picking lean sources of protein, and selecting healthier grains. It also surprises people that you don’t have to cook for hours to make a healthy meal. I talk frequently about short cuts you can use to get a healthy meal on the table fast! One of many favorite tips is using frozen vegetables. They are just as healthy as fresh vegetable and they are already chopped up for you and ready to go.
A healthy life starts with healthy food. That’s why Second Harvest Food Bank provides families in need with wholesome meals and nutrition education to help them stay healthy. It’s just part of how we help solve hunger. We are so grateful for the work Caroline does as she helps the hungry people we serve lead the healthy, active lifestyles they deserve.