May 2020 Issue

Letter From the Nutrition Editor: Dietitians Step Up in the Fight Against Coronavirus
By Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 22, No. 5, P. 5

On the hospital battlefield. In public health. In foodservice operations. In the media. Dietitians are impacted by COVID-19 in numerous ways. Some are helping in unexpected circumstances, such as on the frontlines at hospitals, providing patient care and putting their lives on the line as health care workers who are exposed to coronavirus on a daily basis. Others are working in public health trying to connect limited food resources with a burgeoning population of those who are now food insecure. Many are working in foodservice institutions attempting to navigate a host of unique considerations, such as quarantines, food shortages, and keeping kitchen staff infection-free. Others are struggling with finances due to closures of their small businesses, whether it be private practice or employee wellness.

I’ve heard all sorts of stories of hardship. One thing is for sure: Dietitians are in the thick of it. Food shortages in supermarkets, shuttered school lunch programs (that ensured nearly 30 million children received good nutrition), empty food bank shelves, and swelling numbers of sick hospital patients are all things we care about deeply. It’s what we signed up for, really—helping to keep people healthy, nourished, and well.

And our communities are scared. They’re fearful of food shortages, prompting people to hoard food—encouraging more food insecurity. People are running out of funds to purchase healthful foods, thus frequenting food banks in record-setting numbers. Farmers are having difficulty planning for planting their spring and summer crops, an issue that may impact us significantly in the months to come. Families are afraid of spreading coronavirus through foods after viewing way too many fact-free blogs on the subject. They’re looking for unfounded magic bullets through individual dietary supplements or food regimens to “boost immune function” and prevent infection. People are cooking at home (for the first time for many) and don’t have a clue what to do with a bag of beans.

We have so much to do and so many opportunities to make a difference during this tough time. And dietitians are right there. We’re showing up to work at hospitals to care for sick patients. We’re writing blogs on how to cook from your pantry. We’re setting the record straight on immune health and food safety. Dietitians are bringing families together in the kitchen with suggestions on how to cook easy meals together. We’re offering hope as people are isolated and sheltered in their homes.

Today’s Dietitian wants to be right there with you every day as you struggle through the era of COVID-19. That’s why the Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium is going to a virtual conference platform. We want to provide you with the cutting-edge nutrition information you need for your profession, while keeping you safe at the same time. We’ve also started a Facebook page called COVID-19 Forum, so you can join the conversation and share your struggles, questions, and tips. Let’s all come together and offer support to our dietitian family and ultimately our communities. Plans are in the works for an article on what dietitians are facing on the frontlines.

Stay safe and keep doing the extraordinary work you do!

Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Nutrition Editor, Today’s Dietitian