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Did you miss GADA's last professional development meeting on Justice?

Written by: Aliza Lukowski, Graduate Student in Dietetics, Coordinated Program, Georgia State University
Wednesday February 23, 2022

Justice is the Academy of Nutrition's 4th principle in the code of ethics. Justice (Social Justice) supports fair, equitable, and appropriate treatment for individuals and fair allocation of resources. Tamara Melton, who co-founded Diversify Dietetics, led a panel of esteemed local dietitians to discuss what this means for practice and how and why they incorporate justice into their roles as dietitians. Cindy Culver, Jerlyn Jones, and Cicely Thomas spoke about the following practices that nutrition and dietician practitioners should follow:

Collaborate with others to reduce health disparities and protect human rights.
Promote fairness and objectivity with fair and equitable treatment.
Contribute time and expertise to activities that promote respect, integrity, and competence of the profession.
Promote the unique role of nutrition and dietetics practitioners.
Engage in service that benefits the community and to enhance the public's trust in the profession.
Seek leadership opportunities in professional, community, and service organizations to enhance health and nutritional status while protecting the public.

Jerlyn Jones, RDN, currently runs The Lifestyle Dietitian, and is a spokesperson for nutrition and dietetics, focused on collaborating with others to reduce health disparities and protect human rights. Jerlyn spoke about the power of collaboration in helping fellow Georgia residents in need. According to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, 1 in 8 people and 1 in 6 children living in Georgia are food insecure. The Good Samaritan Health Center works with individuals that are at 200% or less of the poverty level. They saw a need for fresh food and turned their 1-acre backyard into a farm. As a result, they produce 13,000 lbs. of produce each year. In addition, Good Samaritan Health Center partnered with the non-profit, Wholesome Wave Georgia to get their fresh, healthy, and local food to people in need where they can redeem food prescriptions. Jerlyn pointed out that this is what the bare bones of collaboration can do when we take the time to think about our community.

Cindy Culver, RDN, who has been the Director of Marietta City School Nutrition for the last 11 years and preceptor to future dietitians, spoke about promoting fairness and objectivity with fair and equitable treatment. Cindy discussed providing access to food to all children in the Marietta school district. In Marietta, 60% of the children in the district are on free or reduced school lunches. She lives this practice by ensuring that all students receive food all year round, no matter their background. Having access to food during the summer has been very important to her, and she worked very hard to make that a reality. Summer meals were around 20K each summer, but over the past two years of the pandemic, they increased the number of meals served to 200K, so all students and children in the community had access to food. She reminded us that fair and equal are not the same and that fair and equitable is where we want to go. Tamara reiterated that giving everyone the same thing is not equity; giving everyone what they need is equity.

Cindy also spoke on contributing time and expertise to activities that promote respect, integrity, and competence of the profession. For her, this means wearing the preceptor hat. She said it gives her pride to see how much impact she can have as a preceptor. She spoke about the fact that we all need to be preceptors because we all come from different areas and backgrounds, and that is what we can impart on students and interns to see what RDN's do actively. She discussed that individuals reach out to do distance learning programs, and more minorities come from these programs, and that the RDN community should open this door as a preceptor to these students. Tamara pointed out that by precepting and promoting the RDN profession through distance learning, you can also get CEU's. Cindy left us with some words to think about and how she reflects at the end of each day, "What do you think we can do a little bit better tomorrow? How can we get better and smarter the next day? Did we treat everyone the way we wanted to be treated?"

The next topic of focus was about promoting the unique role of nutrition and dietitian practitioners. Jerlyn spoke on this and discussed her private practice. She pressed the point that our unique role is to promote not only our expertise as a food and nutrition expert but also compassion. To not see everyone as a client or a patient, but more as an individual from different walks of life. We should remember that nothing is cookie-cutter, and each person needs an individualized plan which means that we must listen. Every client and every practitioner comes from a different background, and it's when we listen that we hear what is needed. An important point she made is that not everyone is going to eat a standard American plate of food, and she gave us a great resource, Healthy Plates Around the World. With this resource, you can see what a healthy plate looks like for soul food, West African, or Criollo.

Cicely Thomas, RDN, spoke on the last two topics. Cicely has been with WIC from the beginning of her career, has navigated her way through different positions at WIC, and worked her way up to North West Georgia's WIC director. She first spoke on engaging in service that benefits the community and enhances the public's trust in the profession. Cicely has gained the trust of her WIC clients and families and benefited her community through the farmer's market program with WIC. The farmer's market program is held in the WIC parking lot, and local farmers come to sell their produce. WIC gives each client a $30 voucher to purchase fruits and vegetables. Cicely stated that this gives the clients a chance to buy fresh food in an environment they already know and feel comfortable in. It also allows WIC to work with and engage with their community.

Lastly, Cicely spoke on the last topic under justice, to seek leadership opportunities in professional, community, and service organizations to enhance health and nutritional status while protecting the public. To fulfill the ethics of justice and social justice as dietitians, we must advocate. Cicely spoke on advocating and educating the decision-makers that hold the votes for policy change. She brought this point back to the farmers' market that WIC has. WIC doesn't just get their money from anywhere; it must go through a legislative process. So, we must educate and advocate for the people who can't do it for themselves. She encouraged interns as well as employees to TRY. Try to get their voice heard at any level because people will know your name and what you do when you keep trying. The work that we do is to benefit others and not just ourselves.
Tamara's final note is that we are supporting our profession by advocating. We are supporting our jobs and our salaries. So keep an eye out in your email for information to reach out to your representatives on the Dietetics Practice Act.

Don't forget to sign up for the Hunger Walk on Sunday, March 6. You can participate in person or virtually.

Email or vote for Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day social to be in-person at a restaurant or virtual trivia. 

And lastly, if you have nutritional benefits from a recipe from around the world that you want to share, email Jennifer Baugh at [email protected]