I have always loved food. It was my childhood dream to open a café that specialized in various types of stews; now, I am constantly flipping through cookbooks for new recipe ideas. I also have an interest in medicine. My mother is an OBGYN so I have always felt a sense of comfort in hospitals and around doctors. Therefore, it was no surprise when Project Angel Food’s (PAF) philosophy of “food is medicine” immediately caught my attention as I was searching for summer internship opportunities. PAF is a non-profit organization that cooks and delivers free meals to people who suffer from chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS or cancer and are too sick to cook for themselves. It serves people from across Los Angeles County which is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. PAF is located in the heart of the city and just a few blocks down from the tourist attraction of Hollywood Boulevard. A unique and eclectic blend of people work for PAF; they all welcomed me with open arms and while I have only been working for them for two weeks, I already feel like I am a part of the team.
My official title at PAF is Dietetic Intern, which means I work with the in-house dieticians and nutritionists. Their main job is working with the clients to create a diet plan that is tailored towards the clients’ individual illnesses and dietary needs. For example, a client with kidney failure will be put on a renal diet which is low in potassium and added sodium. Over the past few weeks, my main job has been organizing client data based on the type and severity of health condition each client suffers from. Based on changes in BMI and other quantifiable measures of health, I also take note of whether the client’s condition has improved or declined since they first started receiving meals from PAF. Eventually, this information will be used for writing grant proposals. Another task of mine has been to write “nutrition bytes” for the weekly menus. A “nutrition byte” is a brief paragraph that provides relevant food and nutrition facts. June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month so I dedicated last week’s nutrition byte to a local market that receives extra or unwanted fruits and vegetables from big-name grocery stores. For that reason, the market is able to sell the fruits and vegetables at significantly reduced prices and to offer healthy, whole food that is more accessible to the public.
One of the most meaningful experiences I have had thus far is being able to deliver food to PAF clients. Every morning, PAF delivers a week’s worth of meals to their clients. Each day is coordinated so that clients who live near one another receive their meals on the same day of the week. I joined in for Thursday’s delivery which meant we delivered meals to clients who live in West LA. I grew up in West LA so it was eye-opening to see that there were so many people in my own neighborhood who needed help. Most clients were not home when we dropped off their meals but of the clients who I was fortunate enough to meet, many were appreciative that PAF could provide them with a homemade meal. Most of my time at PAF will be spent at the office, but I hope I will be able to go on at least one more delivery and meet more clients before the end of the summer.
While I have only worked for two weeks at PAF, I am excited to take on more responsibilities and to further explore the relationship between food and medicine.
Experiences like Bari’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Internship Coordinator Victoria Wolff.