Mandy Huynh, a volunteer intern at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, got involved to enhance her experience in community nutrition education through the UCSD dietetic program. Mandy supported the Children’s Field Trip Program, facilitating cooking and nutrition lessons to 4th graders, and Cooking for Salud­­, where she learned so much more than she expected. “I’m very grateful that Olivewood Gardens gave me the opportunity to learn, share, and serve the community, while also getting more experience in the nutrition field.” From learning more about how vegetables are grown, gardening tips, and recipe preparation, she saw the importance of minimizing food waste.

Nutrition in the Community

Speaking on her time with Olivewood, Mandy expresses, “It impacted the way I convey nutrition information and guiding others to make healthy choices in life. I’ve always been interested in community nutrition education; so at Olivewood, I get to experience and understand the participant’s perspective.”

While teaching nutrition, Mandy has learned how to “listen to the barriers and reality of things that are involved in life outside of the theory” to be able to provide nutrition education and resources to the community in a way that works with their lives.

“I would like to contribute and serve as much as possible for the community; especially towards having equality of nutrition education access…” especially for underserved/minority populations. “When it comes to information, it’s out there, but it’s not accessible to these populations because the information sometimes doesn’t consider different cultural practices or incomes.”

Fueled by the lack of nutrition education access or underserved populations, Mandy says, “hospitals offer a disciplinary team – of a doctor, pharmacist, dietitian, physical therapist, and social worker – and services to their patients all in one place; covered by insurance and Medical/Medicare. But people with chronic diseases don’t know that they can get dietitian services through their insurance; they think they have to pay a lot of money…” “Every doctor’s office should have a dietitian to educate patients with chronic disease. That way, we can help patients manage their health condition to prevent further progression.”

Leading for the Community

Mandy is a community leader championing health equity and food access. In her perspective, a community leader is “someone who recognizes what the community needs are and tries to address them. At the same time, [they] hear what they have to say, understand their barriers, and know the kind of help they need; then work together to solve the problem. As a leader, you motivate and encourage community members to overcome their barriers and enhance their skills by working together toward a goal that benefits the community.”

Mandy continues to be a community leader and hopes to continue working towards equitable nutrition education access for every community! She is currently working on a YouTube channel to educate people on the prevention of diabetes and kidney disease in English and Vietnamese. “[I] would like to reach out to everyone, globally, who could use some guidance to prevent chronic disease and live a healthy, happy life.”