The Heartland Health Outreach (HHO) nutrition team primarily works with three different groups: the homeless population, newly arrived refugees, and people impacted by HIV/AIDS. In all HHO programs, malnutrition, anemia, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension are common nutritional issues facing participants, and each program addresses these issues in innovative ways.
With the homeless population at HHO clinics, dietitians work alongside a medical team to help participants make healthy food choices given their individual medical histories and food access levels. Finding available, healthy food and ways to prepare it can be challenging for the homeless, and our team guides this process. Through the Refugee Health Program, dietitians offer nutrition services to newly arrived refugees primarily from Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan. Specialized services for refugees include culturally appropriate nutrition education, support, and materials for navigating the American food system. At Vital Bridges, dietitians provide dietary guidance and counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS at food pantries around the city, finding ways to stregthen participants’ immune systems and overall health in the face of chronic disease.
At all HHO programs, dietitians aim to guide participants through healthful, mindful eating and make improved choices. To accomplish this, they provide the following services:
- nutrition counseling
- group sessions
- healthy cooking classes
- blood pressure checks
- weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) checks
- handing out multivitamins
- food budgeting guidance
- assitance with SNAP applications
- menu planning
- weight loss and weight gain education
- diet adjustments (especially after new recommendations from the doctor – for example, if a doctor encourages cutting salt out of your diet, dietitians can help you understand the best ways to do this)
- locating food sources, such as local food pantries or kitchens
- education about serving sizes and nutrition short-cuts
If you are a participant in an HHO program, remember: HHO dietitians will NOT force anyone into eating foods they do not like, tell them which foods they can and cannot eat, or scold them for not eating perfectly. Above all, the nutrition team aims to work with participants and adapt to their needs.
Eating can, and should be, a fun, enjoyable task. Making small changes to your current diet can significantly improve your overall health. All foods can be included in your diet in moderation, and the dietitians do not recommend completely removing any specific foods from your diet.
Vital Bridges dietitians are available during pantry hours at all of our locations. If you would like to meet outside of pantry hours, call to set up an appointment or discuss with your case manager. For other HHO programs, dietitian hours and appointment availability may vary. Ask for more information from your case manager or at the clinic check-in desk.
And remember – even if you’re not a participant in an HHO program, you can access many HHO nutrition tips, resources, and advice through this blog!
To learn more about the individual dietitians, check out our new Contributors tab at the top.
Have a happy and healthy New Year!