By Elly Haden
As a dietitian-in-training at Virginia Tech, I have always been fascinated by agriculture’s impact on human nutrition and health. The field of dietetics is broad with many pathways. There are dietitians that work in hospitals, for college athletes, or in grocery stores. The possibilities are endless and within the profession many areas pique my interest, but food systems and agriculture have always been at the core.
Following that interest, I started a Dietetic Internship at Virginia Tech this fall in preparation to becoming a Registered Dietitian. The internship consists of 1200 hours of supervised practice in three main settings: Clinical, Food Service, and Community. I was excited to experience different aspects of Nutrition and Dietetics, such as working with patients on lifestyle changes to address chronic disease or working on menu planning in K-12 schools. Through this experience I realized the importance of quality ingredients and agriculture to the health of all my patients.
For three years now I have worked as a manager of the Blacksburg Farmers Market where I have come to appreciate the hard work and dedication that farming takes and the passion for healthy and quality food that the vendors share as they bring local, nutritious food to the residents of Blacksburg. While an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech minoring in Civic Agriculture, I toured local farms and saw how farmers implemented farming techniques such as permaculture, rotational grazing, and cover cropping and how these practices worked to build back topsoil and work in harmony with the environment.
When I saw the opportunity to work as a Social Media Intern for the SoAR Foundations, I immediately understood the possibilities to bring attention to the growing need for agriculture research and connect it to my education in dietetics. As the climate continues to change, farmers all over the world are beginning to feel its effect on crops. Agriculture research is essential to give farmers everywhere the tools that they need to be able to continue to feed the world. To neglect investing in agriculture research would be to bite the hand of the food system that feeds us.
What I love about the field of dietetics is that food and diet is a part of everyone’s life. Everyone is affected by these issues. Food is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Without food we cannot support life, much less innovation and progress. This is where my passion for agriculture comes in. It would be silly to make a fuss about what people eat and how they eat without understanding the basics of where food comes from and how people gain access to food.
As I continue my dietetic internship the importance of agriculture investment seems be apparent in every setting I work in. The hospitals, school cafeterias and assisted living communities all care immensely about the price and the availability of food. Both of these are impacted largely by the ability for the food to be produced through agriculture, as well as the distribution and processing of the food. Pricing and availability of food is at the bottom line of all of our health and investing in the system that drives these is critical.
It is clear to me that agriculture research is an essential piece of access to nutritious food for all individuals. At the SoAR Foundation I am excited for the opportunity to promote an organization that is committed to making sure that there is healthy food tomorrow and access for all.
Photo by Elly Haden