by MANNA RD Danielle Talenti
When I am asked what I do for a profession and I tell people that I am a Dietitian, I usually get the same responses. People tend to say, “Can you make me a meal plan?”, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t be eating (said food person has in hand)”, “I need to talk to you about this diet I’m on.” While the title of a Dietitian can be misleading because it has the word diet right in it, I am here to shed some light on all of the amazing things that Dietitians do, and specifically what we Dietitians do here at MANNA.
Defining what a Dietitian does is honestly quite challenging. There are endless roles a Dietitian can play. They might work in a medical field, community setting, public health, research, and trust me, the list goes on. But if I had to nail down some of the general responsibilities of a Dietitian I would have to say the following:
- Provides Medical Nutrition Therapy
- This individualized evidence based approach is used to help to clients manage chronic disease states such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and many others.
- Manages Food Service Operations
- Dietitians help develop menus and manage logistics of large scale kitchens such as in a hospital or school cafeteria.
- Conducts research in the field
- As part of an interdisciplinary team Dietitians are constantly working on advancing research in our field.
- Advocates for Policy changes
- In the public health sector Dietitians are working to improve nutrition care and access for all.
- Expands the field in non-traditional settings
- Dietitians can work in unique areas such as sports nutrition, private practice, or as a recipe developer for large food corporations.
These examples are really only touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the jobs that a Dietitian can do.
Just like there are a vast variety of areas that a Dietitian can work in, there are multiple responsibilities that our Dietitians at MANNA have. First and foremost, our Dietitians provide free one on one nutrition counseling with clients who are on or have been referred to our program. Our Dietitians work with our clients to navigate their unique individual needs. They provide counseling and nutrition education to help manage disease states such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and many others. Our annual satisfaction survey results showed that 92% of clients who answered the survey and received nutrition counseling rated the quality of nutrition counseling as “excellent” or “good”. Clients have described nutrition counseling sessions as “well explained” and “easy to follow and put into practice.”
While the nutrition counseling services are rated highly, a client favorite is also our “Get Fresh” virtual cooking demos. Clients participate in a live zoom class where our Dietitians and chefs collaborate in a fun and interactive way to provide both nutrition education and basic cooking skills, while also cooking delicious meals.
Speaking of delicious meals, our Dietitian’s team up with our chefs to create the medically tailored menus that clients receive while on the program. With MANNA, we offer 12 different diet modifications such as diabetic friendly, heart healthy, and kidney friendly to name a few. It is important that the meals we create meet the unique needs of our clients based on their disease state. To ensure that these needs are being met our Dietitians perform continuous quality improvement regularly in the kitchen. Registered Dietitian Katie Russel MS, RD, LDN developed a kitchen audit and explains, “This helps to ensure the safety and high quality of the meals from preparation to delivery.”
Our team of Dietitians have found it helpful to create and provide nutrition education handouts to supplement the meals. Dietitian Emily Sadowy RD, LDN states that. “I have found success creating materials based around building meals on a budget and utilizing pantry staples which have been more sustainable for clients as they transition off the program.” Additionally, the Dietitians also work on creating educational social media posts, meal bag tips, blog posts, and nutrition education modules.
Here at MANNA the Dietitians and staff pride ourselves on always finding ways to improve. One way that we do this is through the research and evaluation that the MANNA Institute conducts. These efforts, led by Dr. Jule Anne Henstenburg PhD, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND are focused on exploring the impact of nutrition on health for people with serious illnesses. The goal of the MANNA Institute is to focus on improved service delivery and healthcare transformation.
As you can see, there are so many ways that our Dietitians here at MANNA are utilized. At the end of the day we are all here to provide the best possible care and support to clients coming on and off our program. For more information about the MANNA program, please visit our website at www.mannapa.org