Hello everyone, my name is Samantha Leftwich and I am a master's student and dietetic intern at Montana State University. I graduated from University of Nevada Reno with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and Nutrition Dietetics. Engaging with the food system is one way that I apply my passions for nutrition and the environment. I was first introduced to DFI on campus during a tour with one of my nutrition classes during undergrad and was amazed at their work. I visited Desert Farming Initiative (DFI) this Spring as a part of my two week self-select rotation to work alongside food system leaders including the director of FRI (Jill Moe), Farm Production Manager (Garrett Meghini), Americorp production leader (Chelsi Torres), Nevada farm apprentices (Jax Hart and Matt Catalano), food security project coordinator (Claire Holden), local farmers (Ray Johnson and Lyndsay Langsdale), food sovereignty intern (Lance Owyhee), master gardeners, and the Nevada Farm Network team. I am so appreciative of this hard working team and all the knowledge they provided me.

During my time with DFI, I practiced safe food handling while harvesting foods such as carrots and mixed lettuce greens. I helped wash, pack and deliver the produce to local food pantries around Reno including Truckee Meadows Community College, Community Health Alliance and Pack Provisions. This was a rewarding experience to be involved with locally grown food going to local pantries for students and families. 

My highlight was working with the community and visiting partner farms. I was able to see the different techniques that Nevada farmers used to approach climate-smart agriculture in a semiarid desert. I also had the opportunity to promote food sovereignty in Nevada by planting Isleta Chile and Kawayvtnga Watermelon seeds. Once these plants mature and reproduce seeds, the seeds are saved and sent back to Native Seed Search to conserve and further share seeds to people within the Southwest and Mexico region so they may adapt to arid climate to continue benefiting communities and preserve native traditional food ways.

Another highlight was attending the SNAP and Food Security forum. I was able to understand the nutrition incentive programs more in depth and the process of accepting Double-Up Food Bucks, WIC coupons, SNAP healthy incentives and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). I gained insight from the farmers perspective who engage with promoting food security while building a resilient food system. 

My favorite part of this rotation was attending a Farm to Fork dinner for Beginning Farmer and Ranchers hosted by Overland Restaurant that served local meats and produce. The flavors of local foods were incredible! 

How can dietitians impact the food system?

Many people can have a vital role in maintaining a sustainable food system, including dietitians. As a dietetic systems leader, we can enhance individual knowledge of sustainable food practices, implement regenerative health care into practice with food pharmacy programs, engage with community members by providing education, initiate collaborative projects with food services through menu planning to improve food quality, foster relationships, work with retailers to support healthy sustainable purchasing, align organizational policies and practices to contribute to sustainable food systems,and seek opportunities to be part of stakeholder for policy development. I encourage more dietitians to embrace their local food system!

Leftwich, S. 2024, Dietetic Internship at DFI!, Desert Farming Initiative - University of Nevada, Reno

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Also of Interest:

David St-Jules.
University of Nevada, Reno nutritionists honored by Nevada Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
David St-Jules named Nevada Outstanding Dietitian, Deborah Joakimson Recognized Dietetic Technician and Shauna Tavcar Outstanding Dietetic Student
Andrews, A. 2022, Nevada Today