What I Did This Summer: Madison Scouts Nutrition Specialist

Originally posted 8/26/18


Summer has been so exciting! I feel so lucky that I was able to choose so many experiences to immerse myself in this summer--all of them related to my favorite topic: nutrition! Now that we've reached the end of August and the start of the semester is just around the corner, I thought I'd spend time on my blog talking about what I've been up to as a way to remember what I've been doing and to reflect on what I've learned.

First up? What I Did This Summer: Madison Scouts Nutrition Specialist

Who are the Madison Scouts?

Since December 2016, I’ve been the Nutrition Intern for Forward Performing Arts, Inc., a non-profit based out of Madison, WI, that focuses on teaching performance and leadership skills to youth involved in their sponsored activities. I’ve worked exclusively with their Drum Corps, the Madison Scouts. A Drum Corps, or a Drum and Bugle Corps, is a performing marching ensemble. There are over 2 dozen world class and open class drum corps all over the U.S. and a few groups that perform internationally

What is my role?

Being a nutrition intern, I enjoy being a resource for both the members and staff of the Madison Scouts. This spring, the food manager, corps director, and I sat down to review the summer menu, and I suggested changes for a more balanced menu with more variety.

Members also sometimes ask me nutrition questions or want to discuss specific wellness goals. I enjoy having conversations with them, giving them information or suggestions for how to meet the goals that they’ve set for themselves. The members, primarily between the ages of 15-22, never fail to impress me with their motivation to achieve success. In the spring, I attend their Spring skills camps and give wellness talks to the whole group of them (154 members!).

What did I do this summer?

This summer, most of the work I did involved food prep and service for 200 members, staff, and volunteers. The Madison Scouts spend one month of their summer doing spring training at a summer camp in rural Indiana, and we take over the camp kitchen there, but once we get on the road, we do all of our cooking out of a semi-trailer outfitted as a kitchen.

I spent a total of 9 days with the Madison Scouts this summer, 5 days at the end of May and 4 days at the end of June. A typical rehearsal (non-traveling) day with the Madison Scouts Kitchen Crew looks something like this:

5:15am: Wake up, throw on clothes, brush teeth, head into kitchen.

5:30am: Start breakfast. We served eggs or a "hot" breakfast every other day, and the days in between are muffin, bagel, biscuit, etc., days. Making food for 200 people takes a lot of coordination and teamwork. We had a pretty incredible crew working with us, anywhere between 3-6 people. 

6:30am: Make coffee for the staff. This is arguably the most important job we do.

7:00am: Breakfast time! The guys start coming through the line, so we greet them, refill containers and grab more milk and fruit as needed, and get a start on dishes. We also keep an eye on the coffee maker and make more as needed for the staff who drink it. 

8:00am: Clean up from breakfast, eat, take a short break before starting lunch prep.

11:30am: Lunch!

12:30pm: Eat lunch, clean up lunch.

1:15pm: Break! This is typically shower time, nap-time, relax time, etc. If we get a food order in that afternoon, we more or less forego our nap time in favor of restocking and reorganizing the food truck.

2:00pm: Start Dinner prep.

4:00pm: Dinner time!

5:00pm: Eat Dinner, clean up dinner.

5:45pm: We get more of a break now. Again. We can shower, we can nap, we can get other things done, whatever.

9:00pm: Start snack prep. Snack is typically pretty simple, which is nice. Anything from nachos, corndogs, trail-mix, PB&Js, etc.

10:00pm: Snack!

11:00pm: Clean up from snack.

11:30pm: Get ready for bed and fall asleep ASAP, so we can wake up and do it again tomorrow!

This was what I spent 9 days of my summer doing! Along the way, I got to see some of the performances that the Madison Scouts did on tour and had several great conversations with members and staff. Through traveling with the scouts, I've been to over a dozen different states! 

What did I learn?

Working with the Madison Scouts Kitchen Crew this summer has taught me to be patient and flexible. Some days, the weather disrupts our meal plans or travel plans, or other unexpected things happen. Once, Chicken Parmesan was for dinner and we discovered with 90 minutes to meal-time that we didn’t have any chicken breasts.

When you’re feeding 200 people, you’ve just got to get a move on. After panicking for a brief moment, I discovered that while we had no chicken breasts, we did have several boxes of precooked, diced chicken. So we stirred together the diced chicken with marinara sauce and a bunch of spices, melted cheese over the top, and told the guys they could scoop the chicken sauce over pasta.

And I got a lot of compliments that day about how tasty dinner was, and that they hoped they’d be having it again. Go figure.

I’ve also gained a lot of relevant experience working in a kitchen--following recipes, food prep, serving, proper temperatures for food, etc. While I’m pretty sure I don’t want to spend my career working in food service, I know these experiences are valuable to being a well-rounded and thoughtful future dietitian.

Stay tuned for another episode of "What I Did This Summer", coming soon to a blog near you.