This week DC City Council heard day-long testimonies from the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). University president Allen Sessoms and Joseph L. Askew, Jr., UDC Chair of the Board of Trustees, made their case for additional operating budget dollars before the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development. Chaired by Councilmember-at-large Michael A. Brown, the hearing included councilmember Marion Barry of Ward 8.
With potential funding looming this summer UDC aims to climb the top of the priority list. One group within the UDC enclave is the nutrition program housed within the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences. Advocating for more staff and improved facilities, Tambra Stevenson, the outgoing president of the Student Dietetic Association, provided the committee with her remarks sparking interests from Councilmember Barry. As a workforce development opportunity she added the need for a dietetic internship at the University to ensure that the students gain supervisory experience to become Registered Dietitians given today’s job requirements.
Apparently the long-time local politician wasn’t aware of the state of the nutrition program until now. He went on to inquire about the funding needs of the program since the current Mayoral budget has 0 full-time equivalents (FTE) listed. Stevenson stated to the Councilmember: “Conservatively the Department needs at least a million to fund three full-time positions and renovate educational facilities.”
To take a view of Stevenson’s testimony, see below:
Currently I am the outgoing President of the Student Dietetic Association at the University of the District of Columbia that I call ‘family.’
Like my Oklahoma roots—as a UDC family—we work hard together, struggle together; but ultimately still we rise together.
If it wasn’t for UDC, my goal to become a Registered Dietitian would not be possible. Due to passionate faculty, dedicated staff and supportive peers, I have been learning and doing my passion.
Right now the acceptance rate for a dietetic internship to prepare for the RD exam is 49% nationally; yet for UDC it was 100% this year. As a testament, I received my number #1 choice Virginia Tech—because UDC prepared me. And it rightfully should have its own program like most universities. Therefore Council I ask you to increase our funding.
Increase in Opportunities in the Field of Nutrition and Dietetics
Even in a rough economy, we have been able to still rise. The UDC Nutrition Department had a 300% spike in enrollment since 04. With DC ranking in the top 10 for childhood obesity, DC residents have been answering the call of First Lady Obama.
And in many ways I am like my late father, an Oklahoma City firefighter. But I am a food fighter on the frontline fighting a fractured food and healthcare system for the next generation to have a better life.
With most of America, the District has rightfully focused on food access like in my Ward 8. Yet for residents in the TANF and SNAP programs, making informed food buying and eating choices maximizes those public dollars.
And that’s why through the UDC Center for Nutrition Diet and Health, I am empowering residents to prepare healthy meals and to double their dollars at the farmer’s market.
Another reason to support our UDC family: It’s the only land-grant accredited and affordable academic program in DC to prepare future RDs like me.
The road has been challenging though with no admin support and only 3 FTE faculty for 80 students. How is this possible? Passion for family!
Our Department Chair, Dr. Prema Ganganna does the work of 3 FTEs with no salary increase in 5 years while losing her son and battling cancer. And our facilities are that of an elementary home economics lab with outdated equipment and confining space.
Still through all of this, UDC nutrition rises because of professionals like Dr. G. Without her there would be no program.
And like a family our Nutrition Advisory Committee has supported students with service-learning opportunities in DC Public Schools, DC Cooperative Extension Services, and WIC clinics to name a few.
Funding the Future Food Fighters
It’s difficult training future RDs like me with limited funding. That is why we are here today to urge you to fund the Department for a state-of-the-art learning lab and 2 FTEs to operate our first-ever dietetic internship.
Your decision will determine if we continue to struggle together or rise together. Dear Council, what are we going to do together?
Take Action! In supporting a strong nutrition program for the District, supporters should email a letter this week to Councilmember Barry and to Chairman Brown. Here is a sample letter to personalize:
Contact Information for the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development that oversees the University:
Councilmember-at-Large Vincent Orange
Office: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 724-8174
Councilmember Phil Mendelson
Office: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 402, Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 724-8064
Councilmember-at-Large Michael A. Brown
Office: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 406, NW
Tel: (202) 724-8105
Councilmember Marion Barry
Office: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 102, Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202) 724-8045Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
April 26, 2012
Councilmember Michael Brown
Committee on Housing and Workforce Development
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Councilmember [Name]
Please take action to ensure a funding commitment beyond 2012 for the UDC Department of Nutrition and Food Science!
I am a student of the UDC nutrition program. [State your work, occupation or relationship to UDC, Personalize to your story]
Over the years, District youth have become an unlikely statistic—the top ten in childhood obesity. In fact, over the few decades, access to healthy foods along with nutrition counseling and education has been bleak in communities like Mt. Pleasant and East of the River.
Why does it matter? Obesity has become the gateway to diabetes, heart disease and hypertension like a domino effect. At this rate today’s youth will become tomorrow’s early candidates for disability and underproductive workforce! The soft savings achieved in prevention is clear from that perspective. So are we going backwards or forwards, Council? A Baltimore Sun article noted that are youth are becoming obese and malnourished. Meaning they have access to food but not eating nutritious foods.
Through the years, so little has been spent on community nutrition for District residents; yet is the cornerstone to prevention. Really! How else can you explain the epidemic of chronic disease plaguing women, men and children—who suffer from diet-related diseases and think the solution is in a pill? Proper nutritional support and access to healthy foods work together; yet the connection between food and health gets overlooked along with recognizing the role of registered dietitians daily.
It has taken until 2010, to get a master’s nutrition program off the ground at UDC training students in nutrition policy, research and communication. With Howard University downsizing its nutrition program, UDC stands in the lead to train and empower residents on a critical topic—nutrition as medicine and as prevention. Together UDC nutrition faculty and students work diligently to ensure continued success regardless of their circumstances. In support the UDC Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health provides student training opportunities and administrative support to the program.
My issue does not have the representation of a high profile of a celebrity or a PR machine—this may explain why it has taken so long to get a concerted effort going on behalf of our nutrition program. It is vital to keep the UDC nutrition programs going to help our residents to live a healthy, happy life.
I wait to hear back from you as to what steps you will take to ensure the continuation of the UDC nutrition program. Thank you in advance for your attention to my request.