Nutrition students connect with dietitians to explore cultural food diversity
Registered dietitians and dietetic interns from different backgrounds shared about their cultures’ food traditions over Zoom. Pictured (clockwise from top left): Leia Flure, Manju Karkare, Kathleen Castrejon, Nancy Chang, and Enise Urcan.
Photo by Elizabeth Gutierrez
April 8, 2022

Nutrition students and dietetics practitioners came together last month to consider diversity through a lens everyone can relate to – food.

Co-hosted by the Eastern Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (EIAND) and the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student Association (NSGSA), the event was planned and executed entirely by students in the University of Illinois’ dietetic internship program.

Local attendees gathered in the Spice Box at Bevier Hall, while others, near and far, joined virtually for a cultural food panel with registered dietitians and dietetics students from various backgrounds (Jewish, Asian-Indian, Mexican, Hmong, and Turkish).

As in-person participants sampled dishes from recipes provided by the panelists, presenters shared about their culture’s food practices and gave tips for working toward healthier eating habits with patients and clients.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are so important to consider in clinical practice,” says Leila Shinn, EIAND President and Nutritional Sciences student. “Cultural competency enables nutrition professionals to earn patient trust and be more effective in helping people reach their health goals.”

Flora Denton, graduate student in Nutritional Sciences, was thrilled with how it all turned out. “I’m grateful [the panelists] were all excited to be a part of it and create something wonderful and uniquely educational,” she says.

As for the food? Only empty dishes remained by the end – an undeniable sign of success.

You can read more about EIAND and view upcoming events here.

Click here for more information on NSGSA.

Leia Flure, MS, RD, LDN is a graduate of the Nutritional Sciences program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and currently works with University of Illinois Extension. Contact her at



Panelists shared recipes, which were prepared and served by students organizing the event. Pictured (clockwise on plate, starting at top left): Vegetarian Yaprak Sarma (Turkish); Chicken Larb (Hmong); Pohé (Indian); Baklava (Turkish); Sweet Lokshen Kugel (Jewish). Beverage pictured: Aqua de Jamacia