March is National Nutrition Month, and registered dietitian nutritionists celebrate our profession in many ways.

Local food drives

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I love when March swings around each year for many reasons. Here in Virginia we know that spring is just around the corner. In my nutrition world March is National Nutrition Month, and registered dietitian nutritionists celebrate our profession in many ways.

At Sentara Martha Jefferson we honor National Nutrition Month by holding a food drive, collecting non-perishable foods for our less-fortunate community members. We have done this now for 25 years, and have collected 1000s of pounds of food. If you hear the call to donate non-perishable foods in your community, which means giving foods that do not require refrigeration, these are some items that food banks are looking for:

Protein Foods

  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Hearty meat-based canned soups
  • Nut butters such as peanut butter
  • Bags and cans of dried beans and peas – kidney, black, pinto, black-eyed peas, split peas, etc.


  • Whole-grain cereals: oatmeal, Cheerios, cream of wheat
  • Bags or boxes of rice and pasta
  • Barley and quinoa

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Canned only, including light-packed canned fruit and low-sodium vegetables

I volunteer with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Emergency Food Network and we also provide seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk and fresh bread. But the nonperishable foods that I mentioned for donating to food banks are packed with good nutrition. Dried beans and peas are the basis for many nutritious vegetarian meals such as bean soup or beans and rice. Tuna noodle casserole or salmon cakes are inexpensive and tasty protein options using canned fish. And believe it or not, canned vegetables have the same nutritional content as the fresh or frozen varieties. And there isn’t a healthier hot cereal than good 'ole oatmeal. So next time you see a food donation box or barrel, you will have an idea of good donation options.

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.