AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CO-FOUNDER DEANNA BELLENY LEWIS, MPH, RDN.
Please describe Diversify Dietetics in 1-2 sentences.
We are a community for students, professionals, and educators dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession.
Can you share the moment you realized you wanted to create this organization? Where did the need come from, or what was that a-ha moment? What's your WHY?
For me, the need came out of an experience I had at FNCE (Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo) back in 2016. I was in a line waiting for some free samples with a colleague (who is also a Black dietitian) when a woman turned around and said, "Hey, there's not that many of you here". The comment caught me off guard. It made me feel isolated at the world's largest gathering of nutrition professionals. It also made me realize that she was right. After doing some research I learned that the demographic of the field had been unchanged for decades and the reason it looked the way it did was because of systemic and structural barriers.
What has been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in starting your own mission-driven business? How did you overcome it?
I think the hardest part is balancing the constant desire to do more for this organization and this community and finding time for self-care and rest. All of us on the DD team work jobs outside of the nonprofit work we do. On top of that we all have families and personal responsibilities outside of work. It sometimes feels like there aren't enough hours in a day but as a team we are very conscious about reminding each other that rest is just as important as the work. It is, in fact, our word for 2021.
What has been one of your happiest memories so far? A success story or specific moment when you realized "Yes - this is working, I'm loving it, and I'm on the right path!"
We recently wrapped up our DICAS (Dietetic Internship Centralized Application System) application support program, and all of the future dietitians that went through our program from start to finish matched to their number one internship choice. Seeing those emails and IG tags come in, being able to celebrate these amazing Registered Dietician to-be's, that really is such an amazing feeling.
Is there a specific nutrition statistic that still shocks or motivates you? One that readers may not know?
The number of Black nutrition students/interns has fallen by 18% between the years of 1999 and 2019.
What can readers do today to improve our own nutritional habits?
Stay connected to the cultural foods that are important to you. Food is so much more than just fuel.
Your work has a positive impact on us all. How can we better support and empower nutrition leaders of color in return?
We are excited to launch our own dietetic internship in Fall 2022! We want to alleviate the financial barrier for students to get through the dietetic internship and would love support of that program and any of our other programs through donations - www.diversifydietetics.org/donate. There are also opportunities to mentor and be a preceptor to students in the DD community. You can find information about that at www.diversifydietetics.org/getinvolved.
Do you have a go-to recipe, grocery shopping trick, or kitchen hack readers might enjoy?
One go-to recipe I use alll the time I actually learned from a Diversify Dietetics event. We had a cook along with Chef/RDN Karin Arias @sabrosohealthyvibes. She taught us how to make a delicious Honey Dijon Vinaigrette and I've been hooked ever since.
1 ½ tbsp Apple cider
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Oil (olive, avocado, grapeseed)
2 tsp Honey (optional)
Salt and pepper
When it's time for some self care, what songs, activities, or rituals are you enjoying right now?
Over the last year I've really latched on to yoga as a form of self care. The Diversify Dietetics virtual assistant, Stephanie, is actually a yoga instructor and I've really enjoyed taking her classes @smxwellness. Outside of that, taking my time to make a golden latte in the morning while listening to NPR's tiny desk concerts is another great way I like to take care of myself.
Want to keep up with Diversify Dietetics? Join their 20k followers on Instagram here!
Sign up for The Friyay Fuel newsletter here for more inspiring stories like this, paired with other fun finds, delivered directly to your inbox only when you need an extra boost of happy. ✨