By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
When Heather Steele, RD, LD, Dietitian for Reasor’s Foods says she likes to dig into her work, she’s not kidding. One year ago, Heather started the Dig with a Dietitian program and has been getting her hands dirty ever since. The educational program is hosted at Broken Arrow Neighbors Community Garden in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma which touts the tagline, “Where Generosity Grows”, and their mission is to offer fresh produce options to local underserved communities. Heather identified a way to enhance the program by using her expertise to provide free nutrition and gardening education to participants so they can learn more about the food they are receiving, agriculture practices, nutrition and the local food pantry services.
Dig with a Dietitian is held from March through November with 1 to 2 free nutrition and gardening classes offered each month. Classes include cooking lessons, gardening skills, a tour of the food pantry facility and hands on activities such as making a watering jug. Participants return home with more than new knowledge and are excited to receive incentives such as a logo t-shirt or seasonal produce items.
The Summer Dig with a Dietitian program is in full swing and upcoming classes include:
Heather states they have goals to expand the outreach and impact of the program by involving other community partners along with inviting additional food and agricultural specialists to share their expertise. For example, they recently had a beekeeper provide information on the importance of maintaining the bee population.
As with any of her programming efforts, Heather measures success for her retailer to ensure effectiveness. Qualitative measures include aligning with the retailer’s branding pillars and goals for community outreach and education along with the ability to provide fresh produce for local food pantries. In addition, the program provides valuable education to the youth in nearby neighborhoods who will hopefully be future Reasor’s shoppers. Dig with a Dietitian has also been able to boast about their qualitative measures including increased monthly interactions, logging team member volunteer hours and positive results of post event surveys. The program continues to grow in popularity with each session showing successful registration along with a 97% attendance rate.