Thanksgiving Traditions

With the holidays right around the corner, we decided to share some Thanksgiving traditions and favorites dishes of dietitians and dietetic interns living and working in Virginia. Whether you plan to stick to your personal traditions or feel like adding a new one to the table, read below for some tried and true favorites!

Courtney Bascom, a Charlottesville Virginia native, works for The University of Virginia Health System as an outpatient Oncology dietitian. She celebrates with family, food, and a special tradition for documented memories: “Chestnut stuffing is my all-time favorite, filled with delicious chunks of bread and hearty chestnuts. It is absolutely delicious! One of the traditions that has been taking place over the years is writing what we are all thankful for on a tablecloth with the date. This is so much fun as we can look back on what we said years ago!” Courtney Bascom, RDN

Amy LaFalace, the Director for the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Dietetic Internship program has hosted Thanksgiving for the past 8 years, with a very large gathering, turkey cooking secrets, and after meal traditions. This year she states: “This year we’ll have our largest gathering yet with 17 people, including 7 children. My favorite dishes to serve are fresh cranberry sauce, roasted brussel sprouts, and of course a whole roasted turkey. Anything else can be delegated or swapped out from year to year depending on the preferences of our guests. My secret for a perfectly cooked, juicy turkey is a convection oven (along with plenty of melted butter and white wine!)  While I normally eat dinner with my kids, at Thanksgiving we let the kids eat first in the kitchen. Then we put on a movie for them so the adults can enjoy a leisurely meal together in the dining room. It’s one of the few times per year that I can actually talk with my parents and siblings over dinner!” Amy LaFalce, MS, RD, LD

Owner of Kath Eats Real Food, Katherine Younger, a blogger, entrepreneur, and dietitian, celebrated Thanksgiving 2018 with the joy of a brand-new baby. She enjoys the comfort of close family, local dishes from Charlottesville, and a favorite all-time favorite; sweet potato casserole. Check out her blog to find out how she will celebrate Thanksgiving this year:

Shelley Palmer, a Richmond VA native and current dietetic intern with the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia site, celebrates with a “Friendsgiving”. She celebrates with anywhere between 10-20 people and this year they will be smoking a pig!

What are some of your Thanksgiving favorites?

Emily Solis is a Dietetic Intern with the Virginia Tech – Northern Virginia site. She enjoys running, gardening, and baking pies on Sundays.

National Farm-to-School Month

October is National Farm-to-School Month, recognizing the efforts and value of a critical program for students nationwide. Virginia dedicates a week in October to celebrating the Farm-to-School program. During this week, students, farmers, growers, and distributors come together, to learn and explore the ongoing initiatives of the program. The Farm-to-School program provides a wealth of education about fresh produce, nutrition education, food and agricultural literacy, school gardens, and more, with students of all ages.

In 2007, Virginia was one of the first states to establish a Farm-to-School task force. It has only continued to grow since then, with hundreds of local schools, farms, and distribution centers taking part. Virginia is dedicated to continuing to grow the program. According to the 2015 USDA Farm-to-School Census, 1,319 schools participated in the program, supporting 886,775 students.

Fast Facts about Virginia’s Participation in the Farm-to-School Program in 2015:
– 92% of local fresh produce is being served during lunch
– 154 schools are participating in growing a school garden
– 65% of school districts are engaging preschool children
– 23% of school districts are using local foods in summer meals

In 2015, Loudoun County received the “One in a Melon” award for standing out as a participating school district in Virginia. In 2016, they were provided with a Farm-to-School planning grant. They have used the grant funds to grow their nutrition education, providing local foods to students, utilizing the cafeteria for sampling events, supporting field trips to local
farms, and connecting farmers with students. Some of their ongoing efforts for students include:

– Taste it Thursday: One Thursday a month for elementary students, seasonal produce is sampled in the cafeteria. A single fruit or vegetable is featured with taste testing opportunities.
– Fear Factor Friday: One Friday a month, seasonal produce is brought to middle and high school students to sample. A single fruit or vegetable is featured with taste testing opportunities.
– Field Trips: Teachers and parents are encouraged to participate in field trips to local Loudoun county farms, or a trip to Claude Moore Park. Students engage in sampling local produce, learning about sustainable farm practices, and farm-to-table efforts.
– School Gardens: Currently there are 52 active school gardens. Garden tool kits along with free garden supplies are offered to teachers for their classroom instruction. Hydroponic and herb garden towers are new additions to a handful of classrooms for the 2018-2019 year.

The Fairfax County Public School district was named as a recipient of a grant from the USDA in 2019, to create a pilot Farm-to-School strategic plan. A five-year plan is in the works to expand the reach of nutrition education and local produce being offered to students. More specifically, a major 5-year goal is to have salad bars in every elementary school.

Loudoun and Fairfax Counties are just two of the many school districts in Virginia participating in the Farm-to-School Program. For more information check out the following resources:

Virginia Farm-to-School

USDA Farm-to-School Census

National Farm-to-School Network

Emily Solis is a Dietetic Intern with the Virginia Tech – Northern Virginia site. She enjoys running, gardening, and baking pies on Sundays. 

Join Virginia’s Master Food Volunteer Program

Like many Americans, you may be starting off 2018 with resolutions to improve your health and wellness, enhance your relationships, or maybe even advance your career.  Regardless of your specific goals and resolutions, one way to kick off your own personal and professional growth this new year is to consider spending more time serving our community members and sharing your passion for healthy lifestyles.

The Master Food Volunteer Program is a nutrition-related Cooperative Extension group that provides Virginians across the state with up-to-date, evidenced-based knowledge on food preparation, nutrition, food safety, and physical activity.  As Registered Dietitians (RDs), our technical skills and wealth of nutrition knowledge can be of great help to those who have never had formal nutrition education or specific cooking instruction.  Continue reading below to find out how and why you should become a Master Food Volunteer (MFV) this year!


The MFV program is a state-wide program that organizes nutrition-related community service opportunities for volunteers through educational and outreach efforts in the community.  By engaging volunteers throughout various geographical areas of Virginia, this program helps the state’s Extension program to reach more Virginians.  Examples of event opportunities include health fairs, food demonstrations, grocery store displays, in-school and after-school programs, cooking classes, and more can be found on the MFV webpage.

Prior to volunteering, all participants must complete a 30-hour training course.  After the training, volunteers are able to identify opportunities that suit their skills and interests.  Each volunteer is asked to reciprocate with 30-hours of service within one year of their training.


The MFV program continues to expand across the many cities and counties of the state of Virginia.  Once participants complete the training program, they work directly with their supervising Cooperative Extension agent to identify volunteer opportunities within their communities.


There are many current and retired RDs that are involved in the MFV program.  While anyone that has a love for cooking, nutrition, physical activity, or helping others is encouraged to join, RDs come to the program with expert knowledge on nutrition issues and valuable experience working in a variety of settings.

In addition to performing community service, involvement in MFV can provide opportunities for professional growth.  Many MFV volunteers become active in other leadership positions within their communities, such as the local Extension Leadership Councils or other local organizations.  Volunteers also have a chance to improve their public speaking, teaching, and networking skills as they become more active in the program.  In the past, volunteers have even acquired new skills and knowledge to help start their own business or gain new employment.  For example, a recent program volunteer just moved to another state and became a Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent.

Whether you are looking to help your community, grow professionally, or both, MFV is a great place to start!


For anyone interested in learning more about the availability of the MFV in your area of Virginia, visit the MFV website and fill out the section titled, “please visit our survey”.  Within the survey, describe your specific interest, skills, and talents that you think you think would be helpful for the program.  The program’s state coordinator, Dr. Melissa Chase, will contact you and refer you to the Cooperative Extension agent in your area of residence so that you can learn more about the training sessions and volunteer opportunities available to you.

For RDs that are interested in volunteering but may not have availability to complete the MFV training, you are still encouraged to contact Dr. Melissa Chase at to inquire about nutrition-related volunteer events or specific training/educational opportunities that my not necessarily require training as a MFV.  The program highly welcomes opportunities to collaborate with RDs.



Ali Webster is a current dietetic intern in the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics.  She previously completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition at The Ohio State University.  In her free time, she loves exploring parks and neighborhoods around the DC Metro Area and trying to master new food recipes! 

Reduce Your Waste: Join The Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign

With fall right around the corner, that means it’s just about time to welcome back fall favorites like fresh apples, pears, and pumpkins to the dinner menu.  It’s likely that you will probably come across an apple or two that may look a little less perfectly shaped or ‘uglier’ than the rest.  Consider for a moment if you would skip over the ugly fruit, or, if you would place the ugly fruit into your shopping basket.

It is commonplace for today’s shoppers to pass over misshapen or oddly sized produce selections in search of more cosmetically appealing choices.  In fact, many grocers even pre-screen the produce bins in an effort to remove cosmetically imperfect pieces before shoppers have a chance to see them.

The process of removing unattractive or unsafe produce from the market is called culling.

Culling is performed by produce distributors to remove produce that may be unsafe to consume due to mold or rotting.  However, the process has evolved to also include removing produce that is completely food safe but looks somewhat unattractive.  Produce with minor bruises, shrivels, off-color, or distorted size and shape are still safe to consume.

With today’s culling practices and consumer food waste habits, it is no surprise that produce is among the top wasted food group.  Almost half of all fruits and vegetables produced are wasted, with nearly 20-30% of the losses attributed to retailer and consumer practices such as culling.

While wasted produce continues to serve as a major environmental issue, the good news is that progress has been made to combat the wasteful process of tossing ugly produce!  In 2014, the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign embarked on a journey to bring awareness to the billions of pounds of produce wasted annually due to strict cosmetic standards.

The Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign highlights the ‘uglies’ and ‘misfits’ of the produce world through their campaign on Twitter, Instagram, We Heart It, and Facebook.  The organization partners with grocers and retailers across the globe to provide shoppers with access to discount selections of cosmetically imperfect produce.  The overarching mission is to reduce annual food waste by selling ugly fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded into land fills.

There is no better time than the present to get started on reducing how much food you waste each week.  Join the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign this fall and play your part in reducing annual produce waste!

Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign Partners Near You:

  • Check out the partnership directory to find an Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign store partner near you.  A number of retailers currently making the list include Giant, Safeway, and Walmart.
  • Have fresh, discounted produce (including the ‘uglies’) delivered right to your door by Hungry Harvest.  The company rescues produce that would otherwise be thrown away for cosmetic and surplus reasons and allows you to mix and match a personal batch of fruits and veggies at a low price.  Check out the delivery schedule to find out when produce is delivered in various neighborhoods of Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland!


Ali Webster is a current dietetic intern in the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics.  She previously completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition at The Ohio State University.  In her free time, she loves exploring parks and neighborhoods around the DC Metro Area and trying to master new food recipes!

Reduce Your Waste: Why it Matters

The United States is fortunate to enjoy one of the richest and most plentiful food supplies across the globe.  Each year, however, our abundant food supply contributes to an ever-growing pile of wasted food.

Food waste can be defined as the loss of an edible amount of post-harvested food that is safe and available for human consumption but is not consumed for any particular reason.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans dispose of nearly 35 million tons of food waste each year- that is the equal to about 5 pounds of food waste, per person, each and every week!

Pressing issues regarding food waste:

  • Food dumped into landfills eventually decomposes and produces large quantities of methane gas.  These methane gas emissions are a major and devastating contributor to global climate change.
  • Wasting part of the food supply also means wasting a portion of our natural resources.  Food waste creates a serious deficit in resources such as water and land.
  • Food waste also creates a huge financial burden.  The USDA revealed that food waste costs the U.S. nearly $162 billion annually.
  • Nearly 13% of households in the U.S. have trouble providing enough food for their families.  The millions of tons of annually wasted food could be going to families in need of food assistance.

Many people wonder where exactly along the supply chain food waste occurs.  In developed countries like the U.S., nearly one third of food is wasted in the hands of retailers and consumers.  That means that as consumers, we can play a leading part in reducing annual food waste!

There are lots of ways that you can educate yourself and your clients to decrease personal food waste through planning, storage, and preparation.  Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s tips for reducing wasted food at home!


Ali Webster is a current dietetic intern in the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics.  She previously completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition at The Ohio State University.  In her free time, she loves exploring parks and neighborhoods around the DC Metro Area and trying to master new food recipes!