March is National Nutrition Month so we are taking a closer look at some of the volunteers who help our clients eat right. While the Food Bank provides an abundance of healthy options, we also want to ensure clients understand the basics of nutrition and know how to use the produce we offer to maximize their health. We have a team of nutritionists on staff, butwith food distributions occurring at over 850 sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, they can’t do it alone. To reach more people with their important wellness information, our nutritionists work with a team of volunteers that we call Health Ambassadors.
Health Ambassador volunteers donate their time to distribute nutrition information, recipes and cooking tips to clients. Sometimes they even provide recipe samples and do cooking demonstrations. “Our Health Ambassador volunteers play a pivotal part in our nutrition department here at the food bank. Without their help, it wouldn’t be possible to reach the amount of clients that we do. Their work is sincerely valued not only by us, but by the many clients that they have the pleasure to engage with,” said Nutrition Education Coordinator Alex Navarro.
Being a Health Ambassador volunteer is a great opportunity to give back while learning new skills. Many of these volunteers are students who need required hours for class but the opportunity becomes much more than that. Helen Dang, a student at Santa Clara University, shared her experience as a Health Ambassador: “I get to meet a lot of people. I get to see my Public Health training in the works because this is what Public Health is about, talking to the community, getting to know them and what their needs are and how to better help them.” She said it is also a great opportunity to network with other people interested in community nutrition: “A lot of us are doing nutrition or health-related majors so we can talk to each other about the things that we study and our observations in the community.” They get to put their education in to practice and interact with people who need their help which is a valuable learning tool for their future careers.
Becoming a Health Ambassador volunteer is easy – you just need to have time to give. All volunteers attend a 3.5 hour training at the Food Bank and then complete a 1-hour online food safety training. “In addition to promoting healthy eating habits, they also work hard to make sure the sites are practicing proper food safety. Our entire Health Ambassador Team is ServSafe certified to be able to provide assistance with any food safety concerns,” said Alex. Volunteers are asked to commit to helping at 2 sites each month for at least 3 months. The days and times of the volunteer opportunities vary widely so it’s easy to find a volunteer shift that fits your schedule.
**If you are ready to get involved, visit our Nutrition Volunteer page to learn more.