Tony Norcia is a dietetic intern at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Lenoir-Rhyne is a partner in ASAP’s Growing Minds @ University program, which equips pre-service students with knowledge and experiences to be able to incorporate local food and farm to school/farm to preschool activities into their careers as dietitians. Tony is currently completing a 12-week Community Nutrition and Administration rotation at Bearwallow Valley Farms with farmer/owner and registered dietitian Nicole Coston (who we’ve profiled in a past farm to school educator spotlight).
You’re completing the Community Nutrition rotation of your dietetic internship on a farm. What led you to be interested in soil health and its relationship to nutrient density?
During my time at Clemson University, I had the opportunity to work with the ProduceRx program at the Clemson Free Clinic. We focused on repairing disease states with nutrient-dense foods. It was amazing to see the progress many individuals were able to make to reach their nutrition goals by simply incorporating farm-fresh ingredients into their diet.
Tell us about the work you’re doing with Bearwallow Valley Farms.
In this portion of my internship, I have the opportunity to work side-by-side with owner and registered dietitian Nicole Coston. I help Nicole run day-to-day operations of the farm and social media outreach, and have even had the chance to get my hands dirty in the field. Our farm has a CSA program that requires many hours of attention so that we can provide the highest quality local produce to our community. Also, I have partnered with the WCCA [Western Carolina Community Action childcare centers] in our region to conduct farm to school sessions with students. We have so much fun trying new veggies and learning about the farm.
What are some of the activities you’ve done with the WCCA students?
This has been my favorite part of the internship thus far. Each week I have introduced new fruits and veggies to the students and they are the best taste testers! Besides trying new foods, I also work on listening and creative skills with the kiddos. They especially loved our unit on trying local apples.
Are there resources from Growing Minds and ASAP that you’ve used in your work?
The Growing Minds website has been a huge help with planning fun and exciting activities for the young students to enjoy. ASAP staff has been a tremendous help providing books as well as recipe cards and stickers for the students to bring home.
What are some of the links you see between dietetics and local food or farm to school/preschool work?
Dietetics is the field of study that encompasses all of our health through nutrition intervention, so local food doesn’t fall far from the dietetics tree. Our community has to understand the environmental and economic impacts that local items can provide to our region. By supporting your local farmer we can rapidly reduce the resources used to import agricultural products. If we can improve our health with more nutrient-dense foods while lessening our carbon footprint on the world, don’t you see why local food is the best way to go?
What do you hope to do once you are a registered dietitian?
My clinical internship at the VA hospital in Asheville begins this January once I wrap at the farm, then we are in a home stretch to study for the registered dietitian exam that I will certainly pass on the first attempt. I’d love to do individual nutrition counseling with clients along with remaining involved with the local food revival. Working on the farm is only scratching the surface of where I know it could grow, so I do not want to rule out remaining at the farm. I am excited for what the future holds for sure.