Dietetic Career Spotlight on Kristi Friesen, Project Open Hand
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on OCTOBER 27, 2016
Meet Kristi Friesen, RD, helping to feed thousands of senior citizens and critically ill people daily at Project Open Hand in San Francisco. Learn how she is positively impacting her community and how you can, too. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I never finished high school, and started working in the restaurant industry as a teenager. By the time I decided to go to college, nutrition was the only thing I found motivating enough to complete all the prerequisites I needed. It took me more than 2 years, but by the time I completed my courses, I had an Associate’s degree in Science and Applied Mathematics, with Honors. My passion for natural health grounded in science led me to pursue my undergraduate degree at Bastyr University in Seattle, a leading university in natural health with an accredited dietetics program.
Your Job Title?
Company you are with now?
Project Open Hand (POH) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 that serves meals with love to seniors and critically ill neighbors in San Francisco and Alameda County. Every day, we prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide over 200 bags of healthy groceries, engaging more than 125 volunteers every day to nourish our community. We believe that nutritious food is medicine, and we serve a variety of medically tailored meals to suit specific diet types, including mechanically soft, bland, diabetic and renal meals.
In 2014, we collaborated with UCSF to launch a groundbreaking client-focused nutrition study, called Food=Medicine. The study included HIV positive and diabetic clients who were provided with 100% of nutritional need for a period of five months. Our goal was to scientifically show that our proven intervention of nutritious food has powerful impacts on individual health and well-being, and it worked. The results of the study showed a 63% decrease in hospitalizations, 36% decrease in ER visits, and a 50% increase in medication adherence. We are now engaged in a RCT in partnership with UCSF to follow 200 HIV positive clients to further study the impact of our services on individual health and well-being.
– Facebook: Project Open Hand
– Instagram: @ProjectOpenHand
– Twitter: @ProjectOpenHand
– LinkedIn: Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristi-friesen-rd-0a974033
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
There is no typical day at POH, and that is something that I love! I work with our chef to develop our medically tailored meals, conduct nutrition assessments one-on-one with clients, and teach nutrition classes. Once a quarter, I provide food safety trainings for our staff. I enjoy the variety my position allows for me to work in community, food service, education, and research aspects of nutrition and dietetics.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
About 10 years ago, I was in the Nutrition Assistant Program at City College of San Francisco. At the end of the program, I was placed at POH for my internship. I loved the mission statement of the organization, and the staff, volunteers, and clients that I met. I returned as a volunteer a few years later, and again for a rotation during my dietetic internship. I applied for a part time position at POH while I was working on-call at Highland Hospital in Oakland. I left Highland Hospital to work on-call at San Francisco General Hospital later on, and juggled the two positions for a while. Earlier this year I decided to leave my position at San Francisco General Hospital and accepted a full time offer at POH.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I was raised by parents who instilled the values of supporting the community and serving others. I became a good listener and am interested in hearing other people’s stories. I love to learn about food history from others. I’m interested in learning how things work, especially our own bodies and metabolism.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Say YES to every possible opportunity for experience and volunteering as a student. And never stop learning.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
I rarely say no to chocolate!