My Dietetic Internship at Dairy Council of California
Dairy Council of California collaborates with champions, including educators, health professionals and community leaders, to elevate the health of children and communities through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits. Dairy Council of California registered dietitian nutritionists invest in mentoring future professionals by providing internship experiences for dietetic interns. As March is National Nutrition Month and March 8th is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, now is the perfect opportunity to share perspective on what it takes to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Read on to learn more about our most recent dietetic intern, Cynthia Alvarez, including her educational path and why she values nutrition education and Dairy Council of California.
Growing up on an organic farm, I learned the importance of sustainable farming and optimal nutrition as I witnessed the amount of work and dedication it took to raise livestock for meat and dairy, and the care that went into growing wholesome fruits and vegetables. These early experiences helped me to appreciate the value of whole foods relationship to human health and well-being. I also saw the impact of fresh, nutrient-dense food on community health. At local farmers markets, I noticed how customers valued farm fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods like meat, eggs, milk, dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and honey.
When I was 12 years old, my family and I attended a Terra Madre farm-to-table food festival of the slow food movement in Italy, where I saw the important connection between community health and farmers and ranchers who produce nutritious food. I knew that whole foods like milk and dairy played a vital role in the health outcomes of communities. After working on my parents’ farm full-time and starting my own flower farming business, I decided to pursue the career path to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. I wanted to understand exactly how food plays a role in human health.
Becoming a dietitian requires an undergraduate degree in clinical nutrition science that includes specific medical nutrition therapy courses. After completing an undergraduate degree, the next step is to apply to and complete a dietetic internship and pass a national exam. Most dietetic internships take nine to 12 months to complete and are unpaid. Dietetic internships are extremely competitive, and being a good student is not enough to get accepted. By my senior year of college, I had accrued enough volunteer experiences and maintained a high GPA, which gave me confidence to apply to dietetic internship programs. Fortunately, I was accepted into an internship with California State University, Sacramento, a nine-month program with a focus on community health and nutrition policy.
I was excited to learn more about the dietetic profession and especially the diverse opportunities that this internship program offered. I have completed rotations with Sutter Medical Center, Mother Lode Union School District and Dairy Council of California and will soon go to California Department of Education; Sacramento State’s Student Health and Counseling Services; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children known as WIC; and a dialysis center. For my elective rotation with Dairy Council of California, I was eager to participate in building awareness of sustainable food systems and healthy eating patterns. I appreciate how Dairy Council of California educates the community on the importance of milk and dairy foods as part of healthy eating patterns based on scientific evidence and how the organization provides nutrition education and ag literacy to the community.
Early on in my education I knew I wanted to be a voice in the field of agriculture and nutrition education because I saw that many people misunderstand animal-sourced foods and how those foods can be included as a part of a healthy eating pattern within sustainable food systems. I know that foods like milk and dairy offer important nutrients for proper growth and development and that a healthy diet consists of such nutrient-dense foods.
Spending time at Dairy Council of California has reinforced my desire as a future nutrition professional to promote science-based nutrition education and ag literacy to the public. It has also encouraged me to promote sustainable food systems and healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods like wholesome dairy products.
In today's society, it's vital to engage teenagers in experiential nutrition education to guide them toward making nutritious food choices.
The Let’s Eat Healthy Community Grant program provides community health organizations funding to enhance programs within their communities.