Diversity in dietetics is critical. One simply should not exist without the other because culture and ethnicity are intertwined with food. Food connects people to their childhood, family, and cultural traditions. Because of the lack of diversity in the dietetics, health and nutrition resources are not always inclusive. In fact, only 1.4% of registered dietitians (RDs) in Indiana are African-American. Culturally relevant nutrition education is an important part of helping patients establish healthy habits that align with their values and traditions.
African-Americans and Hispanics are at a higher nutritional risk, often having higher rates of obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. These disparities tend to be related to nutrition; however, the Registered Dietitians (RDs) who serve these populations tend to be primarily white and female. As a dietitian, it is important to know not only what your clients eat, but also to understand the role that food plays in their culture, as this often shapes their beliefs about health and medicine. If a dietitian provides deeper understanding and respect for a person’s background and cultural values, the client may feel more inclined to follow nutritional guidance
Included in our commitment to health equity in the populations we serve, Partners in Nutrition Indiana is proud to have 2 of the only 27 registered black dietitians in our state. As a part of their roles, Jessica McAllister & Ashley Thomas perform nutritional assessments and write diet orders for our client population. Their extensive education, experience, and passion for helping marginalized communities provides a level of understanding and empathy to the clients served.
Jessica McAllister has been a Registered Dietitian for 15 years. With a master’s degree and training in Health Promotion and Program Planning and as a Certified Health Education Specialist, she has been instrumental in the development of nutrition educational materials for patients.
Ashley Thomas is a 3-time graduate of Indiana University Bloomington receiving a Bachelor of Science degree (2009) in Public Health with minor in Human Sexuality, Master of Science degree (2013) in Health Promotion and a second Bachelor of Science degree (2017). She recently passed her Registered Dietitian exam and is excited to use her skill set to improve the health outcomes of our clients.