Tell us a little about yourself.
"I am a Registered Dietitian born and raised in the Detroit area. Eating healthy wasn't a priority in my household growing up, but became important to me entering adulthood. I became an RD since I related to the common struggles and wanted to help people like my own family. In 2012 I received my BS in Dietetics from Michigan State University. Then, completed my Dietetic Internship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and passed the RD exam".
"Currently I work for Heart Hospice, serving hospice patients in Wayne and surrounding counties. Hospice is for patients with an estimated life expectancy of six months or less. It doesn't aim to reverse or cure a chronic illness, but instead relieve symptoms and increase patients' quality of life".
Why does a hospice patient need a dietitian?
"Loss of appetite, difficulty chewing/swallowing, and weight loss are expected near the end of life. I explain these nutritional changes to caregivers and make suggestions to maximize food an fluid intake as feasible. I monitor patients admitted on tube feedings. I work with assisted living and skilled nursing facilities to provide diets that adhere to standards for mechanically altered and pureed foods. Above all, I lend a compassionate ear to support patients and their loved ones during difficult times".
"As for future goals, I want to go to graduate school to get a Master's in Public Health or Health Psychology. Doing research to further our collective knowledge of health/nutrition sounds like a dream career to me. I am particularly interested in the relationship between mental disorders and health behaviors (diet, physical activity, substance abuse)".
What led you to the Cooking Matters Program?
"During my Dietetic Internship I was assigned to shadow a Cooking Matters class and tour Gleaners. The particular class I shadowed was the grocery store tour. I was so impressed with how much the participants had learned the weeks prior, and the camaraderie between the participants and instructors. After I was hired as a part-time hospice dietitian, I remembered Cooking Matters and signed up as a volunteer nutrition instructor right away. It helps keep my skills sharp that aren't applicable to a hospice population, all while giving back to the community in my free time".
What is your favorite thing about being part of the Cooking Matters team?
"Contributing to a program that helps people in a practical way. I personally learn best when I'm doing something hands-on, so I really believe in that aspect of the class. At the end of the six-week class, the participants have knowledge they won't forget anytime soon. I learn something every class I help teach, from the other instructors and the participants themselves".
Do you have a favorite moment from a Cooking Matters class you would like to share?
"Generally speaking, seeing the excitement of the kids in the CM for kids classes I've volunteered for. When you arrive at the school each week to set up, kids from the class will see you in the hallway and wave. They cheer 'yay!! We have Cooking Matters today!' Children may not have the best attention spans, but with their enthusiasm you can tell you've made a positive influence on their lives".
What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
"Onions! I love adding them to many recipes and to me, they make the simplest dishes 100% better. It helps they're inexpensive and stay fresh for a long time. My freezer is stocked with frozen veggies so I can make healthy meals quickly when I don't have fresh produce on hand".
What do you do in your spare time?
"I absolutely love to paint. My grandma painted countless beautiful watercolor and oil paintings in her lifetime. I've taken up painting (watercolors for now), partly in remembrance of her, combined with the positive mental health benefits of a creative hobby. I'm still a novice, but it's exciting to see all I have left to learn and the potential to make better art".
"I am a big bookworm too, and I tend to read a lot of non-fiction. Many of my favorite authors (and painters) are French, so I am in the process of learning the language on my own. I hope one day when I'm fluent (and can afford it) to visit France and experience the culture and cuisine firsthand".
Do you have a recipe you would like to share?
"Honestly, most of my favorite go-to recipes are Cooking Matters ones! Some dietitians are culinary geniuses, but not me personally. I love that the CM curriculum talks about 'recipe frameworks,' because that's what I tend to do myself".