By Dinah Dalder
My interest in food and nutrition began when I took an advanced foods course as an elective in high school. I had a wonderful teacher and I loved learning about the composition of foods and why our bodies needed different vitamins and minerals. I also got interested in cooking during that time and still use recipes I copied by hand from magazines and my mother’s cookbooks. I went to college with the plan on becoming a Registered Dietitian and that goal was fulfilled after getting my degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Michigan and completing a 6 month dietetic internship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
I moved to Indiana and decided It would be a good idea to get my Masters degree at Purdue University while we were “in town.” I had the good fortune to be hired by Evelyn Abel as her graduate teaching assistant at Purdue and she was one of the reasons my husband and I became members at Trinity. After finishing my graduate degree, I worked as a clinical dietitian at Home Hospital. Many things in nutrition changed over the 15 years I worked at the hospital, including the recognition of the importance of nutrition in helping patients get well and stay well. I loved working with the most challenging patients – those who could not eat or could not eat enough nourishing food. It was my mission to team up with the doctors and nurses to find a way for these patients to get enough nutrition.
As a member of Trinity, I started volunteering with the Community Meal when some extra help was needed and eventually became the volunteer coordinator. The Community Meal provided a free lunch for anyone who came to eat at noon on Sundays. It was a blessing to have another way for me to use my training in foods and nutrition. Although I had lots of experience working with hospitalized individuals, I was shocked by the eating challenges I noticed in the people who came to eat at the Community Meal. Many of the guests’ teeth were in terrible condition. Volunteers brought in lovely fresh fruit and vegetables, but the guests turned the food away because they could not chew well enough. I was able to help give ideas to the volunteers bringing food so that the guests would have healthy food that they could eat.
Volunteering at the Community Meal to help people receive adequate food was a hugely rewarding experience for me. I was able to use my professional training and background to serve those in need and help advise volunteers about possible menu items. I learned a lot from the people who came to the meal and discovered how difficult it was for these individuals to have enough nutritious food to eat. Most of the guests were so thankful for the meal and appreciated everything the volunteers were providing. It was a blessing for me to help this vulnerable population and I am grateful for this opportunity.