Rachel J.

Host site: South Whidbey Good Cheer in Whidbey Island, WA

“Back in high school, I wanted to work in the fashion industry. I admired my aunt’s career as a fashion designer in Los Angeles and aspired to be as creative as her. My senior year of high school, when I was making decisions about where to go to college and what to study, I found out she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. My world was turned upside-down and I began to rethink the path I would take, with a deeper understanding of the preciousness of life. This was the most influential time of my life. I specifically remember going with my aunt to her appointments with a naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian. I observed firsthand something that I’d never thought about before – healing the body through food. I was so intrigued by this idea of “food as medicine” I decided to veer off the fashion path and pursue a career as a registered dietitian.

I moved from Southern California to Whidbey Island for this position at South Whidbey Good Cheer. Up until May of this year, I was living in Mendocino County, completing a dietetic internship as the next step to becoming a registered dietitian. The internship consisted of 1,200 hours of supervised practice experience and interns were required to complete month long rotations in diverse dietetic settings. During my internship, I taught nutrition education classes at a school district, worked with the clinical dietitians at two acute care hospitals, shadowed the foodservice managers at a school district and a hospital, and worked alongside dietitians at a WIC clinic and a dialysis clinic. After finishing the internship, I moved home to study for the board exam, which was the last step to getting the RD credential! While I was studying, COVID was progressively getting worse and I didn’t know where I was going to find work. I decided to focus on studying and was hopeful that the right opportunity would present itself when it was time. The role I have now with Good Cheer is my first “real job” out of school and with my credentials!

I’m part of this e-list service called COMFOODJOBS, which sends out emails with opportunities across the sustainable food system spectrum, including AmeriCorps positions. I didn’t know AmeriCorps existed before I got an email for the position at Good Cheer. After a quick glimpse at the title and description for “Community Connector”, I knew this position was a great fit for me. My overarching goal as a dietitian is to connect individuals, families, and communities to their local farms and food sources as well as address issues of food insecurity. This position was exactly that. I had never heard of Whidbey Island before seeing this posting, but everything about this opportunity sounded like a dream, so I applied, got the position, and moved!

My role as Community Connector at Good Cheer entails researching all of the services on Whidbey Island and helping our beneficiaries (food bank shoppers) become more aware of the services that are available to them. I also help with the day to day operations of the food bank. I’m passionate about increasing food bank shopper’s access to nutritious food. People who can’t afford food shouldn’t have to eat only packaged, processed, or canned food. They should have options available to them, and it makes me so happy that Good Cheer provides just that – extremely nutritious options.

COVID has completely changed my vision of what I want to do with my career. I used to want to work for a farm to table restaurant that highlighted seasonal, local foods but there are not many opportunities in the restaurant industry these days due to the pandemic. In a way, the pandemic has also shifted my priorities. I’ve always been passionate about addressing issues of food insecurity, but I didn’t know if I could fully support myself financially doing service work. COVID has made it clear that food insecurity is on the rise and we need as many people as possible working to combat it. What really stands out to me about Good Cheer is that they are growing organic, nutrient-dense food here on the property and providing it to people who can’t afford it. I’ve never heard of a food bank that does this. Some of the food is fresher than what is available at the grocery stores. It feels really good to be a part of something that is helping the community in such a profound way. We need that right now—more people who are doing things for positive change.”

 

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