Child Nutrition · Community Nutrition · Dietetic Internship · Topic of the Week

Topic of the Week: Challenges of Community Nutrition

I know this isn’t really a concrete topic, and it’s Friday so I really could do a week recap, but I really wanted to dedicate a post to just this. 

Basically, a summary of the challenges I noticed in community nutrition. 

I finished my time at the preschool yesterday and have been reflecting a little on my time there in the last 24 hours.  I also had the opportunity to interview both the program director and the family services coordinator at the preschool and after being there 4.5 weeks and getting to know the program pretty well, it was interesting to here what they had to say about it too.  It was a very unique program that I was able to experience and one that many others could model after so it was actually pretty cool to get an inside view.

Instinctively I want to say that one of the main challenges of community nutrition is the fact that it is, as it’s name states, in the community.  There is limited access to medical records, lab values, and clinical resources that are available in a lot of other settings that employ RD’s.  However, as much as an RD in a community setting might like to have this information, I really don’t know if it is actually essential for the success of community nutrition programs.

Which is actually very obvious but something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. 

In the community setting, like the preschool I was at, the RD becomes much more of a reference for nutrition advice and overall healthy living, and much less a part of a medical team.  They don’t write a diagnosis, follow up, or prescribe a diet, they simply meet with families and talk about their eating and strategies to make changes.  It’s interesting because time can be much more limited in a community setting, which is another challenge, but the sessions have a much more personal feeling to them.  

Another challenge in these programs is the language barriers that can be present.  Being someone who understand Spanish very well and speaks it decently, I honestly don’t know how someone could practically work in community nutrition and not be bilingual.  I’ve been looking into programs at the community college because I’ve realized that I need to get to the point where I can speak the language as well as I can understand it. 

I don’t think it’s any secret that many low income families who access community nutrition programs are minorities and with many of those families there is a translation process.  From my prospective and limited experience with this, those who speak Spanish have an advantage over all the other non-English speaking individuals out there.  Spanish is a common language at this point and it’s not particularly difficult to find someone who can speak it at least conversationally.  We had children at the preschool who only spoke Arabic, Dari, Chinese, Russian, and a handful of other languages that no one else spoke.  

It is hard to reach out and educate parents and children when there is a language barrier standing in the way.  Unfortunately I have no idea how that could be overcome but I think it might be the biggest challenge I saw at the preschool.  

I’m sure I could come up with more challenges, but I really don’t want to bore you any further. 

Reflecting back on my overall experience I still don’t think community nutrition is where I want to end up.  I did end up enjoying my time at my first rotation in general but I am kind of craving the clinical and long term setting right now.  Luckily, I start that on Monday 🙂

Happy Friday! 

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