As an Iowa State University dietetic intern, Sarah Quick developed a composting program during a school nutrition rotation in Washington state. Contributed photo.

Dietetic interns turn focus to the environment

As the world prepares to celebrate the 47th annual Earth Day this Saturday, Iowa State University is playing a leading role in increasing global awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment.

Erin Bergquist, a senior clinician and dietetic internship instructor in food science and human nutrition, is co-chair of a national working group of dietitians formed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. The group is developing a dietetic internship concentration focused specifically on sustainable, resilient, and healthy food and water systems.

“The sustainability, resilience, and health of our nation’s food and water systems are directly connected to the health of our people, communities, environment, and economy,” Bergquist said.

Registered dietitians are on the frontline of providing consumers with research-based expertise about food and nutrition. With this new dietetic internship concentration, dietitians will be able to show how that relates to the health of communities, environment, and economy.

The new dietetic internship concentration will include 12 to 15 activities focused on environmentally friendly principles that dietetic interns will complete during their rotations. Iowa State students are working with Bergquist to test the new concentration.

“We have a number of interns who are participating in food waste activities and also helping me pilot a dietetics internship concentration in sustainable, resilient, and healthy food and water systems,” Bergquist said.

One dietetic intern, Sarah Quick, developed a composting program during her school nutrition rotation in Washington state. Another intern, Andrea Lopez, created more than 1,500 servings of polpetta vegana and linguine (vegan kale and tofu meatballs) during her food service management rotation in Texas. Yet other interns are working on menu planning, education about smaller portion sizes, and presentations about food waste.

FSHN new dietetic internship display“This activity, along with the food waste study, really helped me to get so much out of my school food service rotation,” said Taylor Grisham, a distance education graduate student in food science and human nutrition.

“They both made me think critically in ways that I have not yet had to think with medical nutrition therapy and community work,” Grisham said. “There are so many things that go into food service, and I definitely understand the challenges the school system faces in meeting guidelines and trying to reduce food waste much better having done these projects.”

The Iowa State University Dietetic Internship Program is an accelerated 25-week, 1,200-hour program that prepares entry-level dietitians to function in a variety of settings including community, public health, wellness, private practice, management, and health care. The program accepts up to 80 interns per class, or 160 per year.

Iowa State is home to the largest distance dietetic internship program in the nation. Dietetic interns can choose to complete their internship in Iowa or in almost every state in the nation. They also have the option of completing their community nutrition rotation overseas in Ghana, Africa or Paris, France.