Maryann Moffitt is the dietitian and food liaison officer at the University of Ottawa. We spoke to her as she was getting ready for the new academic year.
What interested you in becoming a campus dietitian?
I love working with people, and a campus provides many opportunities for partnership and collaboration at so many levels. We have done some wonderful work with students, for example, getting nutrition students to formulate healthy eating messages that are relevant to their peers. We also have the opportunity to work with faculties to try out innovative concepts, like our hydroponic growing system developed through Telfer School of Management, to contribute to the cafeteria’s produce supply.
Is it unique for your role to be part of Food Services rather than Health Services?
Not at all, more and more universities and colleges are employing dietitians as part of Food Services. At uOttawa, the increase in food allergy really drove the decision to include a food and nutrition expert on the team. We also work with the culinary team to bring a wellness and nutrition lens to menu development. My annual ritual with the chefs is to ask for more veggies please!
How do you spend a typical day?
My days change dramatically with the time of year. In September, we welcome back 44,000 students and almost 3,000 meal plan holders. We go from a very quiet town to a bustling metropolis in a matter of days, and the dining hall will serve close to 8,000 people a day in September. So, much of my time is being available to students and managing our dietary restriction program. As we settle into our routines, my time moves towards projects and supporting special events in the dining hall. Once we move into the winter semester, thoughts start turning to next year, and summer is for planning and research. It’s a calendar that provides a lot of variety!
What are some of uOttawa’s practices for supporting students with food allergy?
Our dietary restriction program offers meals prepared with consideration for students with food allergy. For instance,
- The dietitian, the chef, and the cook review all recipes and ingredient information.
- Meals are prepared in a separate and dedicated room off our main production kitchen with its own equipment and ingredients.
- Students have access to complete ingredient information in a binder in the dining hall and online.
- Hot entrees are also supplemented with self-serve cold sandwiches and salads for students in a rush.
Students are responsible for reviewing ingredient information and making a safe choice, as we firmly believe that they are the expert of their own allergy.
What can you tell us about the Nutrition and Wellness Network?
Dietitians and nutritionists are being employed more often on Canadian university and college campuses. The Nutrition and Wellness Network started in 2016 as a way to connect with colleagues across the country to learn about initiatives on other campuses, share best practices, and brainstorm solutions to common challenges. The Network has had guest speakers on managing students with eating disorders, discussed ideas about cooking demos and promoting Nutrition Month, and has reviewed ways to manage food allergy, nutrition facts calculations and other foodservice-specific concerns.
The Network has a conference call on the first Thursday of every month from 9-10 am PDT. Campus dietitians and nutritionists who are interested in joining the Network can contact founder and chair Nicole Fetterly, Coordinator, Nutrition Programming & Services, University of Victoria (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Campus dietitians continue to bring about important changes at their institutions. In 2018, Maryann and Nicole were co-recipients of the Robyn Allen Leadership Award. This award is given annually to individuals who have made a unique contribution to the lives of Canadians living with severe allergies through their efforts in education, advocacy, community building, leadership, or fundraising. In 2019, Anne Zok, Nutrition Manager for Hospitality Services at Western University in Ontario was nominated for this award, and UBC Food Services was also nominated.Tags: Campus spotlight, post-secondary, uOttawa