We are celebrating the achievements of our summer intern, University of Cincinnati Dietetics student Catharine Whitacre, M.Sc., as her Community Nutrition Rotation period comes to a close. Throughout her brief tenure, Catharine demonstrated dedication to her work and a commitment to advancing us toward our vision of a resilient regional food system. The resources she helped us develop significantly enhance our capacity to advocate for policy and systems change, ensuring that informed decision-making remains at the forefront of our action and advocacy.
During her six-week internship, Catharine completed three projects with us:
Data Compilation for the Landscape Analysis of our 10-County Region
As part of our ongoing efforts to embrace our unique positioning as a regional Food Policy Council, we are expanding our analysis of assets and risks throughout the Greater Cincinnati region. With her background in data analysis and her expertise in nutrition, Catharine brought valuable skills needed to expand our data monitoring with a focus on health- and nutrition-related indicators for our regional food system. We will continue to use this information in analysis and planning.
Resources Focused on the Nutrition Title of the Farm Bill
With guidance from our Community Connections Coordinator, Amanda Lukas, Catharine turned key data about SNAP usage in our region into charts that help us identify trends and needs. She also created a slide deck template that participants in our Farm Bill Train-the-Trainer workshop can use to present about the Nutrition Title of the 2023 Farm Bill. (Ask us if you'd like access to any of these resources!)
Expansion of a Farm to School Lesson Plan on Pickling
With the support of our Agriculture Education Curriculum Coordinator (and Green Umbrella's Green Schoolyards Manager), Cynthia Walters, and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Supervisor of Nutrition, Lauren Marlow, Catharine advanced our initiatives in Farm to School and child nutrition. She built on a base lesson that CPS had offered elementary school students on pickling cucumbers, adding extensive background information and curriculum standard connections with Science, History, and Social-Emotional Learning and evaluation components. She created a guide for teachers and a presentation version to show students.
Right after her internship ended, Catharine led elementary-aged children participating in a Cincinnati summer program in a version of the lesson she prepared. With help from CPS and FPC teams, Catharine walked the kids through the science of pickling as a food preservation strategy and basic knife and food safety skills. Then she guided the children as they prepared their own quick pickles to enjoy the next day. Throughout the lesson, the children shared about their own food habits, cultural connections, and family traditions, and they learned about a nutritious seasonal vegetable that matched up with the Ohio Farm to School program calendar.
In addition, Catharine applied her experience with us to two projects for her Dietetics program. She leveraged her work on the pickling lesson plan to prepare a feasibility study for a marketable product: F2S curricula created by an RDN. Catharine also used the perspective gained during her internship to make the case for nonprofits and other institutions like school districts to hire registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) in community-focused roles. Below are two slides from her presentation on this topic, explaining the opportunities for an RDN working at an organization like Green Umbrella and the benefits of such a role.
Catharine shared that she would leave the rotation taking away new tools, like Canva, as well as extra confidence in introducing herself as a professional and part of a team. Reflecting on what she learned about the FPC, Catharine said:
As a student, I saw the Food Policy Council's vision and other information on the website, but actually being in the FPC Committee meetings, I loved seeing how the individual meetings reflect each part of our vision of the FPC as a whole. It was an "a-ha moment" of the strategic plan coming into view.
During her internship, we encouraged Catharine to meet one-on-one with some members of our FPC network in nutrition-related fields for some career exploration. The timing of her rotation allowed Catharine to join us for a Full Council Meeting as well as several FPC Committee Meetings and some related network meetings, like those of the Live Work Play Cincinnati coalition.
Thank you to our network for your welcome of Catharine and for your mentorship! And thanks to Catharine for all your contributions during your time with us.