Stephanie Simms Hodges, MS, MPH, RDN
PUBLIC HEALTH & THE NOURISHED PRINCIPLES
for something nutrishus
Beyond the occasional hotdog or pizza day, my school food experience was just a milk program until I got to high school and there was the option to buy from the cafeteria. Stephanie and others, like Debbi Beauvais and Stefanie Dove, do so much for the current school food environment. With her work experience in non-profit, for-profit, the government sector, and school nutrition, she has a unique career path and an important job helping shape healthy futures with policies.
Why did you become a RD?
My path to becoming an RD wasn’t exactly a short or direct one. I completed most of my DPD (Didactic Program in Dietetics) in undergrad but didn’t decide to become an RD until I enrolled in graduate school and learned I could complete my DPD there along with my graduate coursework. Before attending graduate school, I completed an AmeriCorps VISTA year of service working on school based programs that supported physical activity and healthy eating. Seeing children’s eyes light up when they harvested what they had grown in the school garden was and still is one of the biggest reasons I became a Registered Dietitian.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I work in the public health nutrition space and more specifically, in school nutrition. I have supported school nutrition programs through non-profit work in which I worked to increase participation in the programs (School Breakfast Program, CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, and Summer Meals Program) and from a regulation and grant implementation perspective working in a state agency. Combining my education and experience, I now offer school nutrition consulting services through my business, The Nourished Principles.
How would you explain what you do?
The best way to explain what I do is by saying I work to ensure each child has access to delicious, healthy food at school. I work with school nutrition professionals to enhance their school nutrition programs and I offer a wide variety of services to them including: grant writing and implementation, staff training, menu certification, nutrient analysis, special diet consulting, wellness policy consulting, nutrition education programming consulting, strategic planning, and marketing and social media consulting.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
My typical daily or weekly tasks vary so much which I love about the consulting world! One day I may be participating in a twitter chat that focuses on kids eating habits and how to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and the next I may be writing a grant to implement or enhance a school nutrition program.
What has been your career path?
After taking my first nutrition course in college I not only loved the subject, but I also loved the passion that the professors had for nutrition so I switched my major from biology to Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise. Once I graduated from college, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA assisting a non-profit in their implementation of school based programs that focused on healthy eating and physical activity. In my career I have assisted schools in the implementation of federal regulations under the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act, I have written federal grants to support the Women, Infants, and Children program, advocated for policies at the national and state level, and worked to support child nutrition programs.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
My interest in nutrition and public health policy led me to graduate school where I completed my DPD and earned a Master of Science in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition and a Master’s of Public Health. I have completed training from the Institute of Child Nutrition.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
An appreciation of school nutrition programs from legislators, parents, educators, and communities! And from the school nutrition services side, more local procurement, marketing of the programs, and nutrition education.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
RDs are not the food police and you don’t have to confess to us that you had ice cream for breakfast. We LOVE food and want you to enjoy it too!
What would you like people to know about RDs?
RDs are a wealth of knowledge. There are RDs who specialize in certain areas and there are others who work on public health programming. If you are looking for a nutrition expert look no further than a RD.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Handling all of the nutrition misinformation out there. It seems as though people take nutrition advice from anyone but RDs which can be frustrating. I always encourage people to ask questions when they hear nutrition advice- who/what is the source, is it being promoted by a certain brand or company and would the advice increase the sale of their products, etc.
What do people think that you do for a living?
My mom says it best- I make sure kids have good food to eat at school and beyond. I’m not sure what others think I do but I hope its something similar.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
In addition to child nutrition, I am passionate about networking in our field. We are truly our best resources!
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Definitely our extensive training. In addition to completing a undergraduate degree we also complete our internship as well as other trainings and professional development. Our RD credential is well earned.
What is your favourite meal?
Fresh seafood from Bowen’s Island Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina! I always get the boiled shrimp with a side of cole slaw, hushpuppies, and French fries. I don’t know what they do to their fries but they are the BEST I’ve ever eaten.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
If you haven’t eaten school food since you were in school, I encourage you to try it! School nutrition has undergone amazing transformations. Some districts have chefs on staff and others are partnering with local restaurants to adapt their most popular menu items for school meals. How cool is that?!
More about Stephanie:
Facebook: The Nourished Principles