Career Profile: Community Nutritionist

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In US healthcare there is a tendency to focus on health from an individual patient perspective, focusing on the problems they bring to a hospital or doctors office, and responding to those issues. It is a growing idea that this sort of reactive medicine is not the optimal way to promote public health- instead, focusing on groups of people and encouraging healthier living processes through community engagement and education. One way that is improving the quality of lives of many people and saving them money in medical bills is through the activity and growing importance of Community Nutritionists. And the need for Nutrition workers is growing! Not only does the job pay well, with a median salary of approximately $46,000 and the top 10% of Community Nutritionists breaching $75,000 according to Payscale, but it can be incredibly rewarding to build relationships in the community and see the positive effect that health education and nutrition awareness can have on people’s lives. A Community Nutritionist has a college degree majoring in Nutrition, perhaps from one of the Top 20 Online Nutrition Programs and works hard to build up community awareness and good habits surrounding diet. A great way to earn your degree is with an online nutrition degree.

A degree in Nutrition will focus on nutrition and diet therapy, medical nutrition therapy, food safety and sanitation practices, food management systems, and meal management and food preparation. While most nutritionists work directly with clients to learn about their eating habits and lifestyle choices, and customize an actionable plan to improve their clients approaches towards holistic health, a Community Nutritionist is less of a one-on-one tactician, and more of a public educator and social worker.

Teaching families and individuals alike the principles of good nutrition and how to incorporate those ideals into daily life, while helping them properly utilize the resources available to them either through government aid or local charitable organizations. In New York state, for instance, Community Nutritionists work with 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). Community Nutritionists support the delivery of these nutrition programs and maintain a high quality level of execution, while guiding, training and providing technical assistance to these people, programs, and participants, as well as staff that deliver these programs.

One of the simplest and most important techniques that a Community Nutritionist can help pass on to families is a balanced weekly meal plan- shopping to buy ingredients according to a plan saves money, establishes a system, and allows there to be a consistent balance and spread of nutrients over the course of the week, helps the family take ownership over their nutrition, and improves their lifestyle with healthy eating habits. While the gist of the goal is the same, the approach is different depending on the population being served- senior citizens at a home have different nutritional requirements and need different cajoling techniques than an after-school program for elementary students. There is tremendous opportunity to invest and improve in societies understanding of nutrition, and great need for nutrition students to get degrees and enter this sphere in the work force.

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