Registered dietitians and nutritionists are the ideal people to support a Head Start program’s food and nutrition services. In some programs, the health manager supervises a nutrition consultant. In other programs, the health manager works alongside a full-time nutrition manager. Some programs find a qualified consultant willing to volunteer their services.
It’s helpful for programs to consider their needs and local regulations when choosing a nutrition professional. Programs who prefer to hire a more highly qualified individual can look for nutritionists who are registered dietitians (RDs) — sometimes called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs).
All RDs are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are RDs. Anyone who completes a degree in nutrition can refer to themselves as a nutritionist. RDs are food and nutrition experts who meet these criteria:
- Completed at least a bachelor’s degree at an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND®) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Completed an ACEND-accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency, or a food service corporation.
- Passed the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR)’s national exam.
- Effective Jan. 1, 2024, the CDR will require at least a master’s degree to be eligible to take the exam.
- Completed continuing professional educational requirements to keep up registered status.
Programs should make sure they are hiring a nutritionist who is well-qualified to provide the services needed.
Tips and Strategies for Working with Nutrition Staff and Consultants
- Collaborate with nutrition professionals to:
- Support nutrition services, including policies and procedures for assessing a child’s nutritional status.
- Write, review, and check menus and food service.
- Serve on the Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).
- Give nutrition education to staff and families.
- Help develop and implement Individual Nutrition Plans.
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Fact Sheet
- Appendix C: Nutrition Specialist, Registered Dietician, Licensed Nutritionist, Consultant and Food Service Staff Qualifications
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Audience: Directors and Managers
Last Updated: October 31, 2023