March 10th is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day!
RDNs are nutrition experts with extensive science backgrounds and training that support individuals and communities in becoming their healthiest selves. They work in a variety of settings, such as community health departments, hospitals, long term care facilities, schools, private clinics, retail stores and farms.
The nutrition field is varied. We’d like to introduce and celebrate some of the Michigan RDNs who work diligently to support a healthy, strong, and resilient local food system.
Mary Balog, Argus Farm Stop
As a non-diet Registered Dietitian with a background in culinary arts and food systems, Mary’s work is diverse. She organizes community classes and cooking demos at Argus Farm Stop, provides remote non-diet health & nutrition counseling along with fellow RDN Bella Diaz , and manages a community wellness project with her friend, Kahlea Williams. Mary’s career is a constant effort to support individuals to optimize their wellbeing, while also advocating for broader cultural and systemic change.
Mary is passionate about many aspects of resilient local food systems from ecological diversity to food sovereignty. She believes dietitians have as much a role supporting food producers in creating a healthy local food system as they do the individuals seeking nutrition advice. “Nutrition recommendations can only go as far as the food options and environment that the individual is a part of,” Mary notes. “I would encourage any dietitian who is interested in community health to connect with local farmers, beekeepers, artisans, seedkeepers, nature educators, and so on, to contribute to movements that can help create a supportive community environment.”
Winona Bynum, Executive Director, Detroit Food Policy Council
Winona entered the dietetics field in order to bring the science of healthy eating patterns to her community. Once in the profession, however, she realized too many people lack access to the foods they need for a healthy life. Consequently, her career interests turned towards creating a more equitable, sustainable food system where everyone has access to healthy food. She left her traditional dietetics career and joined the Detroit Food Policy Council to focus on food systems and food policy issues.
Winona says that her RDN training comes in handy in a variety of ways in her Executive Director role at the Detroit Food Policy Council. “It allows me to approach policy issues through a health and nutrition lens. Dietitians are scientists at heart, so my training helps me to be analytical when looking at food policy and the food system in general – looking for root-cause systemic problems that need to be addressed so that our food system serves us better and is gentler on our environment.”
Winona deeply appreciates the opportunity to work towards long-term positive change in the food system while collaborating with a varied group of people on a wide range of issues –her job is rarely boring.
Diana Dyer, Farmer, Dyer Family Organic Farm
While studying for a PhD in nutritional sciences, a chance conversation convinced Diana to pursue a career in dietetics. Over her 40+ year career, Diana’s work has spanned the full health care spectrum. Her first job was providing tube feedings to critically ill ICU patients and her most recent work has focused on educating and nourishing her community through Dyer Family Organic Farm. In between, she spent 20+ years providing nutritional information and support to cancer survivors, like herself. She even published a book, A Dietitian’s Cancer Story, whose proceeds fund research on nutritional strategies for cancer survivors.
After starting The Dyer Family Organic Farm farm in 2009, she initiated the School to Farm Program for the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (a subgroup of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) to educate dietetic students and interns about healthy soil and ecosystems as the starting points for human health. Her long-term goal for these students is to instill a deep understanding that their professional responsibility (no matter where they end up working) is to advocate for a food system that promotes healthy ecosystems and public health over corporate wealth.
Now retired, Diana continues to advocate for local healthy food systems, healthy communities, and a healthy planet by writing for her farm’s Instagram and Facebook pages and selling her farm’s recipe book Get Going with Great Garlic at Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor.
Jenn Fillenworth, Owner/Chef, Jenny with the Good Eats and Root Farmacy
At an early age, Jenn became captivated by the food system and the ways in which food influences health. She decided to pursue a career in the food world and became an RDN.
As a practicing dietitian, Jenn realized she had passion not only for nutrition, but for cooking nutritious meals. She launched Jenny with the Good Eats to provide personal chef services that bring delicious, healthy foods to the table. Through this company she has served families, catered private events, created recipes for national brands, and has been a steadfast advocate for sustainable foods. Recently, she even appeared on Food Network’s Supermarket Stakeout and won the competition!
This past year, Jenn joined the team at Root Functional Medicine to launch Root Farmacy- a doctor and dietitian designed food-as-medicine café. At Root Farmacy, Jenn’s dual passions of nutrition and culinary arts result in carefully curated to-go meals packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Meghan Jaszczak, Community Health Educator, Portage Health Foundation
A community health educator with the Portage Health Foundation (PHF), Meghan oversees PHF’s Food Initiative- a campaign focused on improving access to locally grown and healthful foods within PHF’s service region (Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, and Ontonagon counties). In this role, Meghan improves local food literacy and culinary skills through the Biblio Bistro and PHF’s Collective CSA Program.
Biblio Bistro, a partnership with the Portage Lake District Library and local chef Michael Stanitis, provides virtual cooking demonstrations to break down common barriers to preparing local foods. Meghan provides easy to digest nutrition information to pair with Michael’s fun, simple instructions for preparing delicious seasonally based dishes.
Meghan also supports local food awareness through PHF’s Collective CSA Program – a 12-week long program that provides locally grown fresh produce to food insecure families. With this program, Meghan creates educational content and recipes for the families which directly corresponded with their CSA share each week.
Paula Martin, Food & Farming Policy Specialist, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
Paula’s interest in dietetics was solidified in high school when a Registered Dietitian empowered her with the tools to help manage her chronic kidney disease through diet. Paula was inspired to provide the same hope and care to others which led her to a varied career in clinical nutrition, fitness, and university wellness.
In 2016, Paula moved to Traverse City and joined the Food and Farming team at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. In her role as Food & Farming Policy Specialist, she supports community health projects, like the Building Healthy Places grant program, and creates linkages between clinicians and the local food system.
Drawing on her clinical and community wellness backgrounds, Paula wrote the curriculum for the first Traverse City-based culinary medicine conference. This curriculum is now part of the bi-annual Farms, Food and Health Conference that Paula helps organize. This conference brings together health practitioners, employers, teachers, school administrators, poverty reduction advocates, farmers, foodservice directors, and others interested in connecting the dots between healthcare, wellness, and locally grown food. In addition to engaging sessions, Farms, Food and Health also provides medical professionals with the opportunity to receive innovative continuing medical education and professional development through hands-on, local food focused culinary nutrition training.
Judy MacNeill, Nutrition Consultant and Chair, Farm to Fork Alcona
After a long career in hospital settings, Judy retired in 2011 and became involved with a group dedicated to improving the physical and economic health of Alcona County through locally sourced food. Prior to this, Judy says didn’t give much thought to where her food came from.
Today, Judy is passionate about local food as a vehicle for individual and community well-being and is the chair of Farm to Fork (F2F) Alcona – a committee dedicated to making Alcona County a “desired locavore and foodie destination.” With F2F Alcona, Judy helps organize an annual small farm conference and partner with local FFA programs to support the next generation of farmers. She’s also consulting on a project with Alcona County’s Commission on Aging to create a community center that will house a new farm market and incubator kitchen.
Judy is dedicated to helping Alcona County improve the local food system and return to its agriculture roots. “There is a rich agricultural history in Alcona County that we can learn from and pass on to future generations. Our ability to improve our future by looking at our past can help guide how and what we want to change in order for the betterment of our community,” she says.
Dayna Popkey, Ypsilanti Farmers Market Manager, Growing Hope
Dayna grew up in Ypsilanti just a few blocks from the current location of the Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace. She spent many Saturdays of her childhood running around the farmers market at the Freighthouse. Through working at the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative, she became a market vendor and was involved in facilitating food assistance programs at the markets. Food access and nutrition became a passion, leading to a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Eastern Michigan University.
Dayna returned to Growing Hope after becoming an RDN. Her current work includes managing the Ypsilanti Farmers Markets, as well as providing guidance on nutrition and wellness-related aspects of other Growing Hope programs. Dayna is currently back at EMU pursuing a graduate degree in Human Nutrition with a focus on weight-inclusive nutrition in Public Health programming.
Kelly Wilson, Director of Community Partners, Taste the Local Difference
Time spent in her great-grandma’s and grandmother’s kitchens taught Kelly that food is a love language and vehicle for connection. Through the health struggles of these women, Kelly also learned how food strongly influences physical well-being.
Because of this, when choosing a career path, Kelly felt called to dietetics. To her, it felt like a way to care for her community while helping to prevent debilitating illnesses. Once in her studies, however, she was disappointed to realize much of the field was focused on treating illness instead of preventing it. As a result, she began exploring food production and the forces that shape the unhealthy food environments many people live in. This led her to develop a strong interest in sustainable agriculture and localized food systems.
After working in food service management, fitness, and private practice, Kelly’s passion for local food systems drew her to the Organic Farmer Training Program at MSU. After graduating the program in 2015, she started her own farm. In 2017, Kelly joined the TLD team to influence broader systems change. In her current role at TLD, Kelly builds relationships with regional and statewide local food organizations, connects local food businesses to TLD’s services and outside resources, and manages the implementation of community health and wellness projects.