When I was 9-years-old, I remember relying on SNAP (formerly food stamps) to assist my family with weekly groceries after immigrating to the United States from Saigon, Vietnam. As a kid, we used food stamps and ate a lot of processed foods, like canned goods and packaged ramen, items that were cheaper and easier to find. My parents struggled speaking English when we moved to the U.S. but they worked really hard to put food on the table for me and my siblings. My mom always made sure that we had some sort of daily vegetable dish whether it was a soup or stir-fry. While she wasn’t a nutrition expert, my mom knew that fruits and vegetables are critical for maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Still, even with federal assistance, finding fresh fruits and vegetables that were affordable and familiar to my culture was challenging. In high school, I developed a mild eating disorder, a combination of yo-yo dieting and binge eating. These experiences ultimately made me want to live a healthier lifestyle. I decided to study nutrition and exercise science at Simmons University. Now I am committed to helping others improve their own relationships with food and physical activity.
As a Nutrition Services Coordinator and Registered Dietitian at Project Bread, I offer individualized counseling for disease management, such as Diabetes, to individuals who are also struggling with food insecurity. I am able to bridge the knowledge gap regarding nutrition and food access for individuals and families to improve their food security and diets, something that my own family could have benefited from greatly, had it been availble to us.
In partnership with Community Care Cooperative (C3), a MassHealth Accountable Care Organization (ACO), myself and my team, Project Bread’s Health Care Partnerships Program, work with clinicians to screen for food insecurity in non-stigmatizing environments and refer patients to see counselors who will meet with them one-on-one to listen to their needs and create individualized nutrition plans.
We are able to prescribe solutions that meet their whole needs, whether financial, medical, social, or beyond, and to ensure all Massachusetts residents, regardless of their ability to pay, have access to the nutrition and supplies they need to prepare, cook, and store food.
My complicated childhood relationship with food is not unique and it can happen to anyone. I know the holidays can be stressful for many individuals and families and the rising cost of living. The harsh winter months may force many residents to choose between paying for utilities and buying groceries.
The volume of client referrals we have received just in the last two months has nearly doubled. I want residents to know that they have options, and we can help.
Your support allows us to be there for individuals and families who are facing food insecurity. Anyone needing food assistance should call Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or get help here.
Since its launch in April 2020, Project Bread has helped more than 3,100 patients, predominantly self-identified as Hispanic/Latino and Black or African American, in 14 community health centers to access the food they need to support their health, by providing recipes, nutrition education, and counseling, grocery store gift cards, transportation assistance, cookware, and kitchen items, or new appliances.