Health Manager Orientation Guide

Nutrition Staff and Consultants

Nutrition staff member preparing a cartful of prepared food.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.

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