Future Dietitians Feed Community's Need for Nutrition
By Karen Angelo
“I was always thinking of new ways to avoid allergens and eat nutrient-dense food,” says Trainor, who graduated from the exercise physiology program in 2015 and is now studying dietetics in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program. “I’ve always found ways to make food fun, healthy and fresh. It’s something I’ve always loved to do.”
This summer she shared her passion for healthy eating at the Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester. The farm is one of the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences’ many partners through which students can gain valuable work experience.
“I created recipes and nutrition information for CSAs (community-supported agriculture), worked at the farmers markets, took care of the animals and taught children about healthy eating,” says Trainor, who expects to graduate in 2018 and take the national exam to become a registered dietitian. (Read more about her experience on her post on the Wright-Locke Farm website).
Trainor is one of six students in the MPH dietetics program who are taking their supervised practice experience this summer. It is the only accredited MPH degree in dietetics program in New England that combines academics with the supervised practice experience needed for graduates to become registered dietitians.
“Career opportunities for registered dietitians are growing and the choices are diverse,” says Renee Barrile, lecturer and program director of the MPH Dietetics program. “Graduates could work in areas such as clinical nutrition, food service and community nutrition, health promotion, public health research, public health program development and policy analysis.”
During her supervised practice at the Haverhill Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program, Eilish M.C. Faherty was surprised to learn that the registered dietitian managed the office, wrote grants and worked with community groups to bring new clients in for services. “As I saw the registered dietitian complete her daily tasks and plan for the future, I realized how expansive the role can be,” says Faherty, who expects to graduate in 2018.
Faherty gained experience at WIC by conducting one-on-one nutrition counseling with mothers and children, taught group education classes on creative ways to use local produce and altered recipes to include at least 80 percent of WIC food items.
“I am looking forward to working directly with clients,” says Faherty. “I’ll have the ability to help people make productive changes that can improve their health and increase their happiness.”
Courtney Bilodeau applied her knowledge gained from the classroom about food service management and community and clinical nutrition to her supervised practice at the Lawrence WIC Program.
“This summer we started a summer food service program with reimbursement from the USDA to serve a free, nutritious lunch daily to children ages 18 and under,” she says. “I have the opportunity to provide nutrition education to the community and gain experience administering and supervising a community nutrition program, which is very exciting.”
Danielle DeGaspe’s experience at Mill City Grows in Lowell gave her a new respect for growing food and getting fresh produce to people who don’t have access to it.
“I didn't realize just how many people relied on the food we grow,” says DeGaspe. “I’m learning how to grow food, maintain land and educate people about federal nutrition assistance programs and eating healthy.”
DeGaspe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from UML in 2016, says that she’ll have the education, experience and real-world skills necessary to pursue a career in a field that she loves.
“By continuing with my public health graduate degree and coordinating it with dietetics, I’ll be able to use my knowledge and love of food and nutrition to get a job in clinical and community settings and beyond.”