Meet Carmen Berry, a registered dietician who leads a nutrition education team at a non-profit food bank. She has made a career out of helping the needy and educating them to lead sustained healthy eating habits.
“Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day but teach someone how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”, says Carmen, manager of Nutrition Education Programs at Operation Food Search. It is a food bank that goes beyond food distribution to provide necessary skills to the people to prepare healthy and nutritious meals on a budget.
Berry grew up in a health-conscious and science-oriented family. She was always interested in food and attended food preparation classes since elementary school and all through college. She also loves science and wanted to take up a career where she could help others. For this, she looked at various professions like nursing, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, but nothing seemed to work out. Finally, she found the perfect combination of science and food- dietetics. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health with majors in Nutrition.
Talking about the organization, she says, “Operation Food Search (OFS) is a hunger relief organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. With a mission to nourish and educate those in need to heal the hurt of hunger, OFS empowers children, teens, and adults with a range of innovative programs and services proven to reduce food insecurity and increase access to healthy and affordable food”. Carmen heads the nutrition education team where they help people learn sustained healthy eating habits through hands-on cooking classes, grocery store tours, cooking demonstrations, and various nutrition education outreach events.
Currently, she oversees Operation CHEF (Culinary Habits to Empower Families), an innovative cooking program that empowers teens and kids with skills to cook delicious meals for them and their families.
Before joining OFS, Berry worked in a corporate food service company where she designed and implemented wellness programs in the area to improve the health status of the working adults. Five years into the job, she realized that something was missing. She took a leap of faith and started working for the non-profits, which was her actual passion and gave her immense joy. It was a huge risk but Carmen took it and looking back at her journey, she knows it was all worth it. She is a volunteer board member of the public policy team for the Missouri Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she connects with policymakers and speaks on the behalf of the registered dieticians across the state.
Carmen is committed to improving community health by putting her skills and passion to work. “I have a personal and professional goal to bust the myth that healthy eating is always time-consuming, expensive, and/or tasteless.” she says. OFS’s mission is to alleviate the burden of hunger from the shoulders of the less fortunate by empowering them through education. She wants to play an integral role in eliminating the food desert from the St. Louis community and more if given a chance. Even when she is not working, Carmen likes to volunteer with local charities and support merchants at farmer’s markets and locally-owned shops.
Leaving a motivating message for all the women who want to work to serve like her, she says, “Change is scary and thrilling all wrapped together. Be open to change and thrive in change as it can be very stimulating and motivating”. She believes in embracing change and is always open to new career adventures.