PODCAST: Dinner for Two…Hundred: What I Did This Summer

PODCAST: Dinner For Two...Hundred: What I Did This Summer

Originally posted 8/14/19

About the Episode

Feed That Nation is available on the following platforms: Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, Castbox, Overcast, and Stitcher.

A chit-chat style podcast about my summer job: Food Operations Lead and Nutrition Specialist with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. The six weeks I spent traveling, working, laughing, and crying with the same 200 people truly changed my life for the better, and I’m so happy to be able to reflect on it as I return to real life. 

Behind the Scenes

I have worked for the last 3 years with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps as their Nutrition Specialist. I do a little of everything: health and wellness education, consulting on the summer menu, working in the food truck, and supporting the rest of the administrative team in other tasks as needed. I’d planned to spend a couple of weeks with them over the summer, as I’ve done every summer since I started.

This summer, it happened that our food operations manager, the person who travels with the group to coordinate and oversee food ops, was not going to be coming on the road. So there was an opening for someone to fill this role.

(I think anyone who has met me can see where this is going…)

I put my name in the ring, and was hired for the final 6 weeks of tour, starting June 30th and finishing on August 10th.

Life on the Road

When on the road, we have semi-trailer outfitted as a kitchen that travels with our group. Nearly every day this summer, I would wake up in a new location, ask myself “What state is this again?”, decide it didn’t matter, and then get up to go find my truck and get breakfast going for everyone. Generally, we have parent and alumni volunteers who will come and work in the food truck with me. We have a set menu rotation, make frequent walmart runs, and receive food deliveries weekly, so on top of managing food production and service, I also kept track of inventory on the truck, made shopping lists, and coordinated getting deliveries put away.

I faced interesting challenges throughout the summer: limited cold storage space, a shortage of volunteers, some mechanical issues with our truck, and more. My academic and practical experience in food service prepared me well for a lot of these issues, but every day called me to think on my feet and go with the flow.

Personal Growth

When sleep-deprived and stressed, I do not handle challenges as gracefully as I’d prefer. Whether that be forgetting to turn the oven on, clashing personalities on the truck, or a spilled gallon of caesar dressing on my shoes, there were many times when even minor inconveniences felt like the worst problems in the world. In those moments, it’s easy to want to walk away. But I couldn’t, and didn’t.

At such low points (the day of the spilled Caesar dressing was definitely one of them!), it was easy to forget that at the end of every day, nutritious meals were served on time, giving my students the fuel they needed to rehearse and perform their best. Having a few days at home now to catch up on sleep and to reflect, I can look back and say that my summer was largely a success, especially because I was able to overcome difficulties to work toward my end goals.

My favorite parts

By far, the best parts of the summer were getting to know my students. Through brief conversations over styrofoam plates of food, they told me about rehearsal that day, told me jokes, told me how much they missed their dogs, and shared their lives with me. I watched them rehearse and perform after hearing bad news from home, after nights of insomnia, and more. I watched my students push through personal challenges every day, and their resiliency inspired me.

I was incredibly lucky to have an administrative team to support me and our shared goal of caring for our students. There were days when I had so few volunteers in the food truck with me that our athletic trainers, photographers, and directors were making sports drink, refilling condiments, and washing dishes to keep us going. Meanwhile, we had excellent conversations about everything under the sun, helping me turn bad days into better ones. I started the summer with coworkers, and ended the summer with dear friends.

End of the Summer

I begin graduate school 3 weeks from today! I’m hoping these last few weeks of summer will return to what I had originally thought my entire summer would be: going to WAY too many farmer’s markets, cooking, podcasting, and enjoying time with my husband and family.

Minnesota-based grad student, future RD, educator, content creator, and mac and cheese expert! Natalie is currently a Masters of Public Health student and dietetic intern at the University of Minnesota, and is on-track to becoming a registered dietitian-nutritionist. She earned her bachelor's degree in Dietetics in 2019 from St. Catherine University.