As a special feature of DC Food Justice for Women’s History Month and National Nutrition Month, community leaders in the food justice movement will be showcased. This month’s focus is on the role of women in advocating for their communities to improve quality of life through food and nutrition.
by Tambra Stevenson
WASHINGTON, DC—In saluting women making a difference in the food justice movement, this week’s food fighter is Evelyn Crayton, EdD, RD, LD, a pioneer in opening doors for women in the field of nutrition. I met her during the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program National Conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC in February.
Standing in the middle of the room, Dr. Crayton made an announcement that Auburn University in conjunction with Dominican University were offering Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways, a new program through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her goal is to increase the number of Extension Agents and people of color in becoming Registered Dietitians given the changing landscape in nutrition to have the credentials.
With only 3 percent of African-American Registered Dietitians in the United States, creating more opportunities like the ISSP are critically important to combat the diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension in the most impacted communities, mostly of color.
One door was opened for Charmaine Jones, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, working for the public policy office of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After not being selected for a dietetic internship through the DICAS system, Charmaine applied and was accepted into the ISPP because of Dr. Crayton. As an alternate route to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam, ISSPs are more affordable, flexible, and still provide the preceptor-led experiences giving students up to three years to complete.
Presently there are more students pursuing the field of dietetics than there are slots available for dietetic internships. For instance in 2009, 4799 applicants applied for 2503 openings leaving a 50% match rate, which is the lowest in computer matching history for dietetics and not getting lower each year. That contrasts the 73% match rate in 2003. Once accepted many programs want tuition paid up front and don’t accept federal loans, or offer financial assistance leaving students, particularly of color, in a pinch.
Sharing her impact by our food fighter, Charmaine states: “Dr. Evelyn Crayton is not only a mentor, but an angel from heaven who whispered, “Never to give up on your dreams no matter how tough the road seems ahead.”
A Louisiana native, Dr. Crayton serves as the assistant director for family and community programs for Alabama Cooperative Extension Services based at Auburn University. In bringing her on to the new post, Dr. Sam Fowler, Extension associate director, rural and traditional programs stated: “She is internationally recognized for her work in both nutrition and health. We feel that Dr. Crayton will be able to provide very effective leadership for both family and community programs and that both of these important areas will continue to be part of our core programs in Extension.”
Graduating in the 1960s at Grambling State University, the proud mom of three and wife of 40-plus years received her dietetics license and later earned her master’s degree in dietetics in 1972 from St. Louis University. Afterwards she gained 5 years of clinical nutrition experience working St. Louis-based hospitals. In the ‘90s, she earned her doctorate in vocational and adult education from Auburn University in 1991.
Tambra Stevenson is the President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia where she was selected a recent Verizon Scholar. She can be reached via Twitter @tambra.