Ever since Jennifer Lew-Vang arrived in the Turlock Unified School District as the new Child Nutrition Director last spring, she has made it her mission to implement new ideas and programs in school locations to help students get the most out of their education through food to get out. Now, these efforts are also helping college students who may one day also want to oversee a school district’s nutrition department.
Six Certified Dietary Manager interns from Merced College completed their final day of TUSD last week and completed the required hours of supervised experience on-site for the Junior College’s Nutrition 37 course, which is part of the Nutrition and Food major. Students in the class usually practice in Merced schools and qualified care facilities, instructor Michelle Pecchenino said, but during COVID closings, the JC made efforts to find a host location.
Fortunately, TUSD and Lew-Vang took the opportunity.
“We’re really grateful that Jennifer was so willing to accept our students and when I saw the facility I knew they would have a great experience here,” said Pecchenino. “Food is universal, so I think the more contact there is with different food settings, the better.”
After successfully completing all courses in this semester, the interns receive the state-recognized certificate of the Dietetic Service Supervisor as well as the Certified Dietary Manager Training certificate, with which they can take the national examination. Become a certified nutrition manager. From there, they can enter the food management field and apply for a variety of jobs.
Some are even switching to four-year universities and pursuing their bachelor’s degrees to become registered dietitians, Pecchenino said.
“They are really going to be qualified for any type of job they want to do in the food service,” she said. “It really branches out in a lot of different directions and you have put in a lot of work in a very short time.”
For Lew-Vang, the experience fondly reminded her of her own days as a dietician. She taught the six interns this semester the basics of the TUSD child nutrition program, from managing a kitchen and creating healthy recipes on a large scale, to mastering the required temperature of a meal and knowing what tools are required to prepare them.
“I definitely know how hard it is to be an intern, add to work and finish schoolwork at the end of the day. As a former intern, I wanted to give this opportunity back and share my knowledge and expertise with the interns I see, ”said Lew-Vang. “There are different layers, and each layer is like an onion. You have to peel it peel after peel, and with every experience we learn from one another. “
The internship at TUSD is important because it shows students another career opportunity should they decide to become registered dietitians or even enter the food industry. The experience not only shows the varied roles and leadership skills available from working in a school district, but also provides an example of a path many interns may not have considered before.
“I have a bit of experience in my own story that I can share and relate to that, frankly, a school district is the place,” said Lew-Vang. “I’ve learned a lot from my teacher, so I try to share more of people’s soft skills and abilities, such as what it takes to lead and lead a team.”
Intern Israel Alonso said he originally started studying Nutrition and Foods at Merced College because he enjoys cooking but has since been interested in other facets of the industry.
“I’ve been so much more exposed in the diet world,” he said. “I definitely see something like child feeding in my future, but I’m still finding out.”