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Community nutritionists are typically registered dieticians who organize and implement nutrition policies and programs. Local schools, health facilities, governmental agencies, residential programs and other neighborhood associations employ nutritionists to assess the dietary needs within their community and educate them on the role that physical fitness and nutrition have in achieving optimum health.
Helping the Public
Community nutritionists play a pivotal role when it comes to educating individuals and families on the principles of ideal nutrition, diet and food selection. As noted on Careerplanner.com, community nutritionists develop and implement plans of care by assessing the nutritional needs and available resources within the community. This includes taking the population’s economic and financial status into account. Additionally, they may help financially disadvantaged families enroll in government-assisted programs that provides vouchers to purchase healthy foods. According to the NYS Department of Health website (www.health.state.ny.us), Public Health Nutritionist/Dietitians are often involved with programs such as the special supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Food and Nutrition Program (FAN) and the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). Along those lines, community nutritionists assist families in creating shopping lists and meal plans, so they can learn to become nutritionally savvy on their own and make meals that suit their means and lifestyle. They also offer nutritional consultations and speak to the community on ways to develop healthy eating habits that fulfill their own dietetic requirements.
Helping Local Organizations
Community nutritionists are also involved in local organizations. Their tasks may include consulting and assisting with the development of nutritional programs for specific populations, designing proposals for funding, reviewing dietary reports and contributing to statistical health studies dealing with nutrition. They also evaluate food service systems and makes recommendation for conformance levels that will provide optimal nutrition and quality food if associated with group care institutions. Community nutritionists can work alongside cafeteria or food service personnel to ensure that a school’s lunch menus offer adequate nutrition, or with various healthcare facilities to ensure that the food provided meets the needs of a special population. This is critical for those suffering from a medical condition, those with dietary restrictions and those who need to take supplemental forms of nutrition.
Aside from planning, creating and assessing the different nutrition services offered, community nutritionists are in charge of the educational and outreach aspects of nutrition within the community. This calls for them to have a population-based perspective, so they’re able to distinguish the specific needs, problems and other relevant factors of the target population. For example, the role of a nutritionist in a predominantly senior citizen community would be different from the role of a nutritionist in a community consisting of mostly young adults. Some communities may also struggle with particular issue such as obesity being on the rise. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Dietitians and Nutritionists, “Increased public interest in nutrition has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising, and marketing. In these areas, dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on issues such as dietary fiber, vitamin supplements, or the nutritional content of recipes.”
Serena Spinello holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her Ph.D. in medical science. She has been a professional writer and researcher for over 10 years and is an active member of the American Medical Writers Association, Academy of Medical Educators, and the National Association of Social Workers.