Some people live in communities where healthy food is not available. If it is available they may not have the money to purchase the healthiest foods or they have to decide whether to spend their money on food or gas to get to work. Having to make the decision between healthy food and buying gas is a tradeoff that people living with food insecurity may have to make. But tradeoffs aren’t always related to food and can be between paying rent over medication or utilities over a doctor visit.

Considering these tradeoffs, people that live in food insecure communities are also more prone to diet-linked diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity. At the Food Bank we understand the power food can have on the health of individuals, families and communities so we started the Nutrition and Wellness program in 2013. 

The goal of the nutrition program is to fight two battles:

  1. to end hunger by educating and empowering people in need with healthy food and the skills to prepare healthy meals

  2. to increase awareness and control of chronic disease in the communities we serve

Our nutrition team is made up of two licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) who are experts in nutrition and understand how our bodies process food, how to reduce risk for diet-related diseases and how to maintain these diseases through healthy eating. Learn more about how we fulfill our goals under “What We Do.”

Nutrition Rankings

We rank the nutrition quality of the foods that we distribute using the Choosing Healthy Options Program (CHOP™) nutrition ranking system.  CHOP™ uses science-based nutrition guidelines and the nutrients on food labels to determine how a food is ranked, most Healthy (score 1) to least healthy (score 3).  We also use CHOP™ to source the healthiest foods with donated funds. CHOP™ was created by the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and is used by many food banks across the country. Our partner agencies are able to make the decision between food rankings to choose the type of foods they distribute to the people they serve.  To learn more about the way food is ranked, click here.

What We Do

Participation is Key

Our nutrition and wellness team uses a variety approaches to inform people about the importance of healthy eating. They can often be found using a mobile display with clients at a mobile food pantry, using hands-on tools to engage agencies waiting to pick up their food order at the Food Bank or at many other food distribution sites where clients participate in a food distribution.

The Food Bank has a three-station participation focused Learning Kitchen where partner agencies and community partners are invited to prepare a healthy meal together and take away invaluable confidence in healthy cooking skills. We call it the Learning Kitchen because each class demonstrates a two-way street for learning – whether participants are in grade school or have a lifetime of experience to share – we learn from each other.

Nutrition Services

The nutrition team works with partner agencies to develop learning opportunities for clients. Just as every community and partner agency is different, so are the clients and the needs that they have. Our team works with agencies to help identify specific health and nutrition needs and provides targeted information to the people that we serve.

Our nutrition team hosts classes in the Learning Kitchen or visits partner agencies to demonstrate how to prepare healthy, delicious and affordable meals. Participants are able to taste what they prepare, learn about why healthy food is important and leave with a recipe. 

The nutrition team focuses on these key areas for nutrition education and in the recipes that they develop to help individuals learn how to manage their health with food, especially on a low budget.

If you are a partner agency of the Food Bank and would like to set up a time for the Nutrition and Wellness team to come to your site or bring the people that you serve to the Learning Kitchen, please complete the Nutrition Education Request Form in the right column and a team member will respond.

Intern and Volunteer Opportunities

We help educate and inspire future public health and nutrition professionals through partnerships with local universities and hospitals. Dietetic Interns assist with nutrition education, community-based needs assessment and program development and evaluation. Interns are accepted through ACEND-accredited dietetic internships only. If other internship opportunities are available, they can be found on the Food Bank career page.

For more information on volunteer opportunities available with the Nutrition and Wellness Program, email us at

Meet the RDs

Joy Goetz, MS, RDN, LD, CHES
Nutrition and Wellness Program Manager

Joy is first and foremost an eater. She loves food, and believes that all people should have access to the healthy, delicious food they need. In her current role, she manages nutrition and wellness programming for Food Bank partner agencies and community partners that empower people to improve their health through project-based learning opportunities and support environments that encourage people to make healthy choices. Joy has worked in community nutrition for seven years. At Open Hand Atlanta, she supported the Comprehensive Nutrition Care Model by teaching nutrition and cooking classes, developing nutrition education resources, and facilitating medical nutrition therapy sessions. She has also taught a community nutrition course at Georgia State University. Joy earned her B.S. in Health Promotion from Liberty University and her M.S. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Georgia State University. In her spare time, she enjoys growing veggies in her community garden plot, yoga, aerial arts, and hiking with her dog Gracie. 

Kristen Barwick, RDN, LD
Nutrition Coordinator

Kristen has experienced all sides of the food insecurity spectrum – receiving from church food pantries as a child in rural Georgia, volunteering in gardening communities and the Food Bank, and now providing nutrition education to people served by the Food Bank. She brings her experience and empathy into each education session that she leads, because every person has their own story to share. You will most likely find Kristen out at one of our partner agencies providing a cooking demo education, cooking up new recipe ideas in the Learning Kitchen or plotting new ways to convince people to eat more vegetables. Kristen earned her B.S. in Nutrition from Georgia State University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Life University.