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Strength in numbers: How SickKids tackled Nutrition Month 2016

Two interns from SickKids Hospital collaborate with a number of different departments to organize an exciting Nutrition Month for staff, volunteers, and the public. 


Mara_HS.jpgMara Alexanian-Farr is a dietetic intern at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.  She completed her MSc in Human Health & Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph. Mara was one of the interns that organized Nutrition Month events for SickKids, alongside the wellness program for hospital staff and volunteers. For the past 4 years, Mara has worked as a food stylist and recipe developer for a number of clients. She also has her own healthy recipe and photography website. After completing her internship, she is looking forward to combining her passion for nutrition and food, and apply her knowledge to new challenges in the healthcare field. You can contact her by email at mara.alexfarr@gmail.com.
 
 
CSmithHS.jpgClarissa Smith completed a Bachelor of Science at Memorial University, followed by her Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. She is currently a dietetic intern at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. For her population and public health rotation during her internship, Clarissa and her co-intern worked with the wellness program at SickKids to plan Nutrition Month activities. In her free time, she enjoys trying out new recipes and ingredients, exploring the city, and spending time with friends and family. Clarissa’s special interests in dietetics are prenatal and infant nutrition, metabolic disorders, and intestinal failure – just to name a few! To contact Clarissa, please email her at clarissasmith230@gmail.com.

  

As nutrition professionals, we like to think that everyone gets as excited as we do about an entire month dedicated to nutrition and health. But, in reality, empowering and engaging others during Nutrition Month this March proved to be a challenging undertaking.

When initially faced with the task, it seemed daunting. Where do you start? Luckily, planning Nutrition Month at SickKids is a team effort, with input and help from many different people and departments.
 
The staff wellness program team is directly involved in Nutrition Month planning. Since their goal is to improve the physical, mental, and social well -being of SickKids staff and volunteers, they were the perfect co-pilots for our 100 meal journey. Our goal was to promote dietitians and educate the SickKids staff, volunteers, and public on healthy eating.
 
The Nutrition Month resources and Member Toolkit provided by Dietitians of Canada also acted like a map for our journey, with weekly themes, great apps (like eaTracker), and resources providing inspiration and ideas to guide us along.

Innovative Nutrition Month promotions at SickKids 

We utilized these resources to organize a number of different events at the hospital to engage staff in a variety of ways. Each event had its own troop of involved volunteers and promotional efforts to help get the word out.

Sickkids-NM-infographic.jpeg
There were some hoops we had to jump through to promote Nutrition Month: All of our promotional efforts went through the communications and public affairs department, and print services for our posters, to make sure they met the communication standards. They also had to balance our social media posts on Instagram, Twitter, and the hospital’s intranet, with other content as the hospital had numerous important priorities to promote.
 
Despite the many events going on in the hospital, we had many of our promotions featured with the help of the communications team. The infographic we created on the role of a SickKids dietitian ended up being the most retweeted post on Dietitian’s Day! We wanted to share this infographic to show the staff, as well as the public, the variety of roles that a dietitian at SickKids has.
 
Another promotional and engagement effort was our weekly photo contest. Staff sent in pictures of their healthy foods/recipes to show their progress during their 100 meal journeys. Pictures are engaging and easy to take and share for anyone with a smart phone. This helped staff to participate without having to leave their busy jobs.
 
We chose the winning photos at the end of each week and the communications and public affairs department would post them (as well as the current week’s photo theme) on the hospital’s intranet site. We even had a recipe contest for the last week’s photo challenge and the winner had their dish featured at the SickKids Terrace Cafe!
 
Since many of our promotional efforts were behind the scenes, we also wanted to make sure that we had some face-time with the staff members. The perfect opportunity for this was at the SickKids Farmer’s Market.
 
We corresponded with the woman who organizes the market and she was thrilled to include us. We used this setting to chat with staff about what dietitians do and how they could participate in Nutrition Month events.
 
One of our other events during the month was a “Breakfast-on-the-goworkshop for SickKids staff. Since many people often skip breakfast, we wanted to help them incorporate our tips and recipes into their 100 meal journeys. We taught staff how to pack more nutrition into quick breakfasts using protein, fibre, and healthy fats.

NutritionMonthRecipes.jpg Breakfast workshop features

Engaging the public in Nutrition Month

While Nutrition Month events at SickKids are primarily for the staff, we wanted to make sure we had a chance to engage with the public as well and offer some creative inspiration and resources for healthy meals.
 
Since the way to anyone’s heart is through food, we approached SickKids Executive Chef Shawn Studholme at the Terrace Cafe to create a Nutrition Month feature to put on the menu from the Cookspiration app created by Dietitians of Canada.
 
He loved the idea and came back with about 10 features per week, all from Cookspiration! We promoted these features in the cafe through the communications and public affairs department, the hospital’s website, and SickKids Daily News. This was a great way to support people’s 100 meal journeys throughout the month. As an added bonus, if people liked the meals, they could find the recipes on Cookspiration and make them at home!

Our final Nutrition Month event: Chopped

Our final (and arguably most exciting) event during Nutrition Month was our Chopped competition, based on the Food Network’s hit series.
 
We had to liaise with communications, occupational health and safety, the move team (to supply chairs, tables, etc.), the AV team, the Terrace Café, and food services (who provided the food for our pantry), security, and the Specialty Food Shop (for prizes).
 
Similar to the group in Thunder Bay, we used this exciting competition model to gather people together to tell them about the 100 meal journey, create excitement around Nutrition Month, and to have a lot of fun! This event generated quite a bit of staff interest – we had 11 teams vying for a spot. In the end, we had three teams of three participants race against the clock to prepare a healthy dish, utilizing our mystery basket of ingredients, to compete for hospital-wide culinary domination.
 
ChoppedJudges.JPGOur distinguished judges tasting one of the team’s final dishes!

You can do it too – try some of our ideas next year!

Nutrition Month at SickKids required cooperation from many different departments in the hospital. We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with so many colleagues while showcasing the dietetics profession!
 
To help us stay organized, we created work-back schedules on Google Docs. This allowed everyone to see action items, deadlines, and who was responsible for completing each task. Throughout this experience, we learned that planning Nutrition Month activities is not a one department venture. By involving many different people and departments within an organization, which have skills and connections to offer, you can make Nutrition Month a success too!  
 
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Editor’s note: Nutrition Month at SickKids was such a success! Clarissa and Mara worked so well with the different departments in the hospital to highlight Nutrition Month in innovative ways. Way to go you two!
 
Our last Nutrition Month blog post in this three part series will be published next week. We will be sharing details about two exciting Dietitians’ Day events held in Ottawa and Charlottetown.
 
Did Clarissa and Mara do something you might like to try next year? Do you have other ideas for Nutrition Month events? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. 
  1. I enjoyed reading about your nutrition month work. It illustrates how creative minds can get a message across to a large group and profile the contributions of dietitians in an institution. Great work by everyone involved!
  2. That infographic is a great way to draw attention to the hard work being completed by RD's in your organization. Very creative!
  3. Eleven teams vying for 3 spots in your Chopped competition shows such interest in food and healthy eating. Congrats on all your initiatives to make NM fun. Loved the infographic.
  4. Thanks for sharing your innovative Nutrition Month adventure with us. Love how you connected your chef with healthy recipe ideas accessible through Cookspiration.

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