Funding from the VP Promise initiative allowed six dietetics undergraduate students to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Orlando in October. UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) undergraduate student participants were Katelyn Castor, Alina Leung, Taby Acosta, Maria Anaclerio, Emily Coffey and Josefina Figueredo. Hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FNCE is the world’s largest meeting of food and nutrition experts. The conference addresses key issues affecting the health of individuals and communities around the world.
On the first day of the conference, students went to education sessions on topics such as financial fitness, athletes and eating disorders, and barriers to obesity care. “It overlapped with one of the classes I am currently taking, Financial Planning for Agribusiness,” Acosta said. “Honestly, seeing how this class can actually be put into practice was really awesome.” One session on creating resilient leaders stuck out to Figueredo. Its keynote speaker was Ginger Kerrick, the first Hispanic woman to become a flight director at NASA. Throughout the session, she provided listeners with key focus areas for leading people through change and equipping them with the necessary skills to rise as future change agents for their companies.
The second part of the conference consisted of an expo with brand exhibitors from Goya, Meaty, Nature Made, Pendulum, Thick It, PepsiCo and more. Booths and stands were filled with samples of the newest nutritional developments, such as gluten free products for those with Celiac disease, probiotic yogurts and Vitamin D supplements.
The expo also provided plenty of opportunities to network and explore careers in dietetics. There was a poster session area aside from the main region. The Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND) Student Committee invited registered dietitians to share their experience in clinical, community, and food system management settings. “I learned that, more than anything, dietitians must be beacons of truth,” Castor said on her experience with talking to the registered dietitians. Attendees were also able to connect with graduate students and dietetics interns and learn more about the application process for graduate school and internships.
When reflecting on their conference experience, each of the students expressed an eagerness to pursue a career in dietetics and attend future FNCE conferences. They also shared their gratitude to CALS for providing them the opportunity to attend the conference and network with others in their field. “I think all professionals in our area should attend to the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo,” said Anaclerio. “It is a good way to connect with professionals and learn at the same time,” she continued.
The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.