Members of the Oldways team recently returned from one of our favorite events of the year: the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (a.k.a. FNCE)! 

This year’s conference was held in the cultural melting pot of Houston, TX, at the George R. Brown Convention Center, October 19-22.  Oldways hosted one of 350 exhibitor booths, which included leading health food manufacturers, chefs, authors, and scientists who all shared the latest cutting edge nutritional information and products. We talked lots about benefits of traditional foods and diets, fittingly, over samples of different hummus blends, tomato sauces, guacamoles, nuts, yogurt, wild blue berries, and dark chocolate.

We met hundreds of dietitians, full of ideas on how to help patients and communities find better health through heritage by preserving and reviving delicious cultural traditions. As Americans better understand food as medicine, the scope of dietetics grows. Dietitians work in many different venues, teaching, counseling, and advising not only in clinical offices, but in classrooms, group residencies, neighborhood public outreach, food manufacturing companies, supermarkets, and more.

One special treat for the team was raffling off a handmade carrot-shaped tote bag from Russia! The lucky winner was Diana Reid from Washington. She is an MPH candidate at the University of Washington.

In addition to connecting at the convention center, a few very special events were on our agenda:

Oldways’ Vegan / Vegetarian Diet Pyramid Gala

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We started off the weekend with the most sensational reception ~ introducing Oldways’ newly updated Vegetarian & Vegan Traditional Diet Pyramid! We enjoyed cocktails and vegetarian appetizers from around the world created by Chef Robert Del Grande. The mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres included vegetable spring rolls with a sweet tamarind dipping sauce; aromatic stuffed mushrooms; chilled Moroccan pumpkin soup “shooters” served in small tumbler glasses; and chickpea masala with crisp shallots.

The Veg Pyramid’s Scientific Committee Members Sharon Palmer, RD and author of The Plant Powered Diet, and Kathy McManus, RD and Nutrition Director at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, joined Oldways’ President Sara Baer-Sinnott in introductory speeches. A big hand to Georgia Orcutt, Program Manager of the Oldways Vegetarian Network, who lead the Oldways team in hosting this momentous event!

A Taste of African Heritage Premieres
Oldways’ national cooking program, A Taste of African Heritage, also had a Houston introduction – not with a party, but on National Public Radio’s Houston Matters Show! Oldways’ President Sara Baer-Sinnott, Program Manager Sarah Dwyer-McMackin, and local Taste of African Heritage teacher Danessa Bolling were all interviewed. *We’ll share a link to the taping on the Oldways website once it airs!

Ms. Bolling is a chemical dependency counselor in Houston, with a passion for improving health and a

heart of gold. She recently finished teaching the six-week cooking class to her patients at MHMRA, and she’s made a birthday promise to herself to teach A Taste of African Heritage every 6 weeks for the next year, at new sites throughout Houston! Danessa is just about to teach a second series at her local church, St. John’s Downtown.

NOBIDAN – the National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition, a membership group of the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition – were huge supporters of Oldways’ African Heritage & Health Initiative. Program Manager, Sarah Dwyer-McMackin, spoke at NOBIDAN’s members’ reception, recruiting more dynamic dietitians to become A Taste of African Heritage cooking class teachers. African Heritage Advisory Committee member Tambra Raye-Stevenson gave an exceptional presentation about the importance of culturally competent nutrition education, including use of the African Heritage Diet Pyramid to communicate optimal diet, at NOBIDAN’s business meeting.

Supermarket RD Seminar & ONE Program
Barbara Ruhs, Stephanie Schultz, and Christina Miller presented a seminar about the growing field of Supermarket Dietetics, moderated by Oldways

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President Sara Baer-Sinnott. The presenters shared insights about the direct impact that Supermarket RD’s have on shoppers’ healthy food choices. They spoke about the powerful patient/public support that can come from dietitians, from all fields, connecting with their local Supermarket Dietitians (for things like store tours, healthy product promotions, and in-store cooking demos, etc.). The presenters featured Oldways’ ONE Program as an effective tool-kit resource for dietitians wanting to help clients at the grocery store level – the starting line for healthy cooking and eating.

We ended our trip with an Oldways group dinner at Haven, Chef Randy Evan’s green-inspired restaurant that pools its ingredients from an organic garden on one side of the restaurant, a bee farm on the other, and sources most of the other ingredients locally – then offering guests dishes that would shine in any state (not just the Lone Star State!)

“What the restaurant does not produce itself is meticulously sourced from Texas farmers, boatmen, ranchers and artisans so that its cheeses, meats, seafood, eggs and vegetables all have a claim to the state. The menu proudly lists more than a dozen Texas sources for its carefully selected purchases.

Haven’s menu is described as Modern Texas Cuisine but the key word there is neither Texas nor cuisine. Modern is what encapsulates the inspiration behind the myriad of dishes that seem to have an international representation. Chef Evans looked at Texas as it is today, and when he went about developing a menu to represent that, in came the rich ethnic contributions of the state’s Vietnamese, Mexican, Acadian, German, Czech and Polish communities.”

With a table-spread of grilled okra, ratatouille, tomato raisin chutney, nuoc nam, and cresta di gallo pasta, we all felt we’d had the best of all worlds.


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