Where would you work in the field of nutrition? As a clinical dietitian? In a community program? As an educator or administrator?
It can be easy to get lost in the more “popular” nutrition careers while forgetting that there’s an entire world of opportunity out there. For example, if you’re interested in not just the nutritional value of the food we eat but also where it comes from, how it is made, and how it ends up in stores, restaurants, and on our dinner plates, you could consider becoming an agricultural dietitian/nutritionist.
Agriculture is the practice of growing and cultivating the foods we eat, so it is clearly extremely important with regards to our nutrition and health. For a long time, though, agriculturalists were focused on the idea of offering enough food for everyone without even considering the nutritional content of those foods, but as people all over the world suffered from severe nutrient deficiency (with millions even dying), agricultural firms shifted their perspective to nutrition. It started with biofortification, the practice of adding vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to a crop that does not have those nutrients naturally (one example is golden rice, or rice fortified with vitamin A), and continues through efforts to increase the quality, availability, and affordability of nutritious foods.
What does a nutrition professional do in the agriculture field?
Work alongside agricultural firms and companies. Dietitians are sometimes employed by large-scale farming corporations to assist in developing healthy and sustainable practices and technologies.
Advocate. Dietitians who become involved in agriculture very often work in the public policy area, calling for sustainability in farming practices and increased accessibility to nutrient-dense foods for people all over the world. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held a December 2014 conference to address three goals for RDNs involved with agriculture: 1) Advancing sustainable agricultural practices; 2) increase accessibility to foods that promote health; and 3) increase global capacity for RDNs. As the global population increases and hunger-related issues become more complex, dietitians are brainstorming ways that agriculturalists can produce healthful foods more efficiently and productively.
Educate. As nutrition professionals get involved and learn more about agricultural practices, they can use their knowledge to educate the public about where their food comes from and how healthful food can benefit them. On a smaller scale, while maybe not “agricultural” in the larger sense, teaching about farming gardening can be a fun and practical way to educate others about healthy food, especially kids. Organizations like Green Our Planet and the American Heart Association’s Teaching Gardens are working to establish gardens in schools across all communities and employ farmers who teach basic gardening skills to kids how plants grow. If this interests you, check out their websites to see how you can get involved!
Make it local! Shipping produce from far away places is expensive, requiring extra fuel and manpower, and can potentially degrade the quality. It’s clear that keeping our produce local could be a great thing for everyone. That’s why it is so important to support and engage with our local farms and farmer’s markets, and nutrition professionals everywhere are making an effort to push the idea of “eating local”.
(Here’s something pretty cool: organizations like Urban Seed are working to create plots and greenhouses of sustainable produce that can be grown and harvested right in a restaurant’s backdoor – yes, even here in Las Vegas! )
So if you have a passion for plants, an interest in food production, and wanna push for local and sustainable food supply, getting into agriculture could be for you!
Collaboration by Meagan Levitt