Stefanie Dove, RDN, CDN
SCHOOL NUTRITION MARKETING COORDINATOR
for something nutrishus
Stefanie came across the series on Instagram and I'm glad she shared her experiences. She is working in an area where she gets to do the things she loves and some are non-traditional ones that were my inspiration for starting this series. My role in communications is very different from Stefanie's and I don't know if we have similar positions to hers here in Canada, but it sounds like a very important role for supporting the next generation and staying in online conversations. Her story and career path is a great reminder that dietitians possess many skills and can find or create positions doing the things they're passionate about.
Why did you become a RD?
I am a second career RD who decided to leave a career in fashion for one in nutrition after I made nutrition and wellness a key component of my life resulting in me losing 105 pounds through diet and exercise on my own. I started talking to people about what I was doing and one day my friend asked me why I never went to school for nutrition. I did not have an answer, so resigned from my position in fashion and enrolled in a nutrition program. I am all about putting your passions in life with a purpose and I feel that this career allows me to do just that.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work in the marketing and communications area of dietetics for a school nutrition program and act as the School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator.
How would you explain what you do?
I blog, tweet, take pictures of cute kids and food, play in the school gardens, talk to kids about eating the rainbow, create posters and flyers for marketing campaigns and do some recipe development…..seriously living the RD dream over here….
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Since I oversee all of the marketing and promotions for my department, I check social media each morning when I get to the office (6:30 A.M). After sorting through social media, if I don’t already have posts scheduled for the day, I will knock a few out and then tackle emails. I spend a lot of my time out at schools whether it is in the classroom teaching a nutrition education lesson or harvesting lettuce with students in one of the gardens so we can talk about why you should eat your vegetables and what parts of the plant you can eat. I make it a point to stop in to the cafeterias at our schools for breakfast and lunch so that I can capture some pictures of our meals and also sit and chat with students about what they like and don’t like. If I am lucky, I get asked serious questions such as what Lisa Frank leopard is the cutest. No joke, that conversation has happened.
I work with the school nutrition specialists in my department to develop and organize promotional events for the month such as National School Breakfast Week, Talk Like A Pirate Day, or one of our most popular days, Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. Since I develop all of the flyers, graphics, signs, etc. for our program, I spend quite a bit of time at my computer. Photoshop and I have developed a love/hate relationship over the past few years. I also work with teachers and community partners on a regular basis to help them with lesson and program planning so that they feel empowered to include nutrition education into their daily activities with students. I also speak locally and nationally on topics such as food allergy management, childhood nutrition, school gardens, farm to school and brand management and marketing.
What has been your career path?
While fashion might not relate to nutrition, my career in fashion as an accessories designer helped set me up with my love for all things marketing and social media. I was still working in fashion when Twitter launched and I remember thinking to myself that this is going to be something big. I asked my boss at the time to start a company Twitter account and I would manage it. She thought I was crazy, but agreed because she knew I would not let go of it. After that took off, I then realized how influential fashion bloggers were, so organized the first blogger conference for my company. I remember how exciting that was and it just so happened that this took place within weeks of my deciding to go back to school for nutrition.
The first day of Nutrition 101 in college, I was asked “what type of RD do you want to be?” My response was “I want to have a job where I can take pictures of food, tweet and blog about it.” Naturally, my response was met with gasps from my classmates since I did not respond with the “safe” answer. I stuck with that idea and was fortunate to begin interning with a NYC-based RD, Laura Cipullo, who allowed me to collaborate with her on social media, marketing, nutrition education, and recipe development. Working with her opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that a RD could have. She had her own private practice, but managed to do all of these exciting things as well. While interning with Laura, I started working with a children’s food startup in NYC and handled all of their social media. Being able to work with editors on feature stories, meet with vendors, and write daily blog posts, was not only exciting at the time, but I also realized that I truly enjoyed this side of nutrition. When my former preceptor told me about my now current position with Loudoun County Schools, I was shocked that it would be able to do everything that I had always wanted to do as a RD in one job. I applied that afternoon and 2 months later moved out of my NYC bubble and into the suburbs of D.C.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I received my B.S. in Nutrition from Lehman College in NYC and completed my Dietetic Internship (DI) through Lenoir-Rhyne in Asheville, North Carolina. I am in the process of completing my M.S. in Digital Marketing and Communications from Liberty University since I feel that this is a unique degree for a RD to have, however, based on the trends of where this field is heading, I think it will prove to be valuable.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
In a perfect world, I would like to see more school districts using RDs for similar positions as mine. There are a lot of RDs who want to pursue a creative venue in nutrition without branching out and doing their own personal blog, site, etc. Working with a school district will provide this creative freedom without the additional stress of maintaining your personal social media at the same time. Marketing and social media positions also allow more RDs to work remotely, which is helpful for those who want to live in places where there are few RD positions available.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Since I work for a school district, people think I am a teacher, then when I tell them I am the Marketing Coordinator for School Nutrition, I just get blank stares LOL
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
Nothing is more rewarding than leaving the office at the end of the day knowing that you made a difference in the life of someone. As a RD, receiving an email from a parent saying that their child tried spinach for the first time at school and loved it so much that they asked to go to the store to get some for dinner or having a group of 4th graders squeal with excitement because you carried a tray of fresh fruit and veggies in their classroom, makes it all worthwhile.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
We are the nutrition experts. Sometimes, I feel that society has made RDs question their validation as the true nutrition expert and we (myself included), just need to remember that WE are the ones who struggled through our DI’s and then studied to know end in order to pass the RD exam, not the person who has 100k followers on Instagram and posts beautiful pics of smoothie bowls.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your career path. Chances are, there is already a RD who is doing something similar, just look them up, reach out to them and ask them questions. I have done that a million times with RDs who inspire me and I have never been met with a “no.”
More about Stefanie:
Linkedin: Stefanie Dove, RDN, LDN