FSHN student interns with USDA

FSHN student interns with USDA

Dec 10
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Summer internship experiences are an important part of student development. In this post, Taylor Durkin, senior in dietetics, shares her experiences, in her words, as an intern with the USDA in Alexandria, Va.

As a student in the College of ACES studying Food Science and Human Nutrition with a concentration in dietetics, I have strived to seek out a myriad of experiences that could fortify my academic coursework at UIUC and also prepare me for a dietetic internship. One of my most valued experiences has been with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) in Alexandria, Va. This internship was so special and gratifying for me because I was able to promote good health and nutrition on a large scale. The mission of CNPP is to be a primary organization affecting food and nutrition policies in the US to promote access to good, healthy foods and to be a resource for nutrition education. CNPP is responsible for creating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and promoting the MyPlate icon, among other responsibilities. 

During summer 2013 I spent three months with CNPP working in two departments: the Nutrition Guidance and Analysis Division and the Nutrition Marketing and Communication Division. The two divisions exposed me to varying work but the mission remained the same: to promote good nutrition in a relevant and consumer-friendly way. An on-going project that I was fortunate to contribute to was a resource for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users called Healthy Eating on a Budget. This was a two-week menu for a family of four that fulfilled the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and adhered to SNAP allotments. It was rewarding to know that the resource was going to help families who are (or may not be) on SNAP stay within their budget but also receive good nutrition by utilizing adaptable grocery lists and delicious recipes. In addition, I was fortunate to attend the 2015 Dietary Guidelines meetings at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where nutrition experts discussed their expanding focus areas for creating the most informative and scientifically up-to-date document. 

Overall, I had a wonderful experience living in the nation’s capital while contributing to work that I am very passionate about. The College of ACES instructors and staff have provided me with the tools necessary to take my class theories and coursework and apply them to a leading organization. This experience has sparked my interest in public health and has encouraged me to seek out organizations that strive to improve the lives of others through nutrition education and increasing food accessibility.

Taylor Durkin (second from right) and three of her fellow CNPP interns.

Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services leadership members are seated around the table with their program interns standing behind them.