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Dietetic Interns Gain Experience in School Nutrition

Ashley Patterson of Oglethorpe, GA and Julie Wallace of Marietta, GA had the opportunity to shadow School Nutrition Director Martha Harvey in December, 2011. “Sitting in a classroom and learning about the USDA and school nutrition programs as well as the important role of a School Nutrition Director is a great foundation. However, the real-world experiences gained by visiting the actual schools, meeting with food service managers and representatives, sitting in various meetings, and working with all who play a role in feeding children during their school hours is something you just can’t learn in the classroom” says dietetic intern Julie Wallace.

Both interns were exposed to nutrition programs, such as the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program as well as Free and Reduced Price Benefits Program. They learned how to practice in compliance with these programs as well as current federal and state regulations from regulatory bodies like the USDA. School nutrition programs must adhere to USDA dietary guidelines.

Ashley and Julie worked diligently to provide resources to the public by developing the Sumter County School Nutrition Program website by uploading presentations, documents, files, and photos. This will allow parents to download forms for federal or state programs, special dietary needs, or other applications. The interns also provided educational links for students, parents, and teachers including online games, research, and lesson plans.

In preparation to enter the workforce, Ashley and Julie had the opportunity to build relationships with all who play a role in providing nutritious, quality meals to Sumter County School children. Kitchen Managers and Assistants, Representatives, the Board of Education Staff, and even other local School Nutrition Directors can all enhance the quality of nutrition service and products. They were able to provide leadership skills by evaluating the kitchens with in-depth kitchen reviews and corrective action plans. The in-depth kitchen reviews ensure the quality standards for food safety and sanitation are maintained.

In their last week, Ashley and Julie presented to Sumter County students on the importance of nutrition through nutrition education handouts and Power Points. They also applied leadership through collaborating with students to develop and implement a survey that would allow the School Nutrition Director to provide more desirable and nutritious food choices.

Ashley and Julie sincerely thank Ms. Martha Harvey, Dr. Roy Brooks, and other members of the Sumter County School District for allowing them to have the opportunity to complete their school nutrition rotation. The experiences and knowledge gained are putting them well on their way to becoming Registered Dietitians. “When I sit for my RD exam in seven months, I know the knowledge I gained while interning at Sumter County Schools will ensure I get all questions related to school nutrition and USDA standards correct! I am looking forward to the career opportunities out there for me as a Registered Dietitian and keeping school nutrition toward the top of my list because I love being able to educate children about the importance of good nutrition,”  says dietetic intern Ashley Patterson.

Please visit the School Nutrition Program’s website at

                                      This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Here: Ashley and Julie gained experience by visiting in all of the SCS cafeterias.  They are shown with children receiving reimbursable, nutritious meals at an elementary school.