Dietetic Intern Series: Admin/Food Service
Welcome to the dietetic intern series! I’m answering your questions from instagram and giving you my insight from each rotation in hopes that you might have a better idea of what you are walking into or to just show you what I’ve been up to this year.
Oofh. What a year. Before I get into the details of every rotation I’ll explain what being a dietetic intern means. For those of you who maybe aren’t familiar with the amount of schooling that goes into becoming a Registered Dietitian, this is the last leg of the journey.
This is different for everyone and I’ll do a dedicated post on that too. Part 1: Nutrition coursework (1.5 years). Part 2: Nutrition masters course work (1 year). The LAST year is 1,200 hours of 4 different rotations (some people have way more) in the nutrition field to be able to take the exam that will determine out futures… no pressure though.
The rotations were the following for me – Foodservice/Administrative, Clinical, Outpatient, and Elective.
I did my admin/foodservice rotation at Glendale Unified School District From August-October 2018 which was great since it was so close to my house, or so I thought. One of the things I realized early on was that at least as a dietetic intern in LA, you need a car and you might be expected to drive said car – A LOT. I think I had a unique experience in my rotation in that I was in the kitchen most every day with the regular food service staff. I drove sometimes to 4-5 kitchen sites a day depending on what I was doing and I used a lot of gas. Since I was an intern, I wasn’t reimbursed for anything. I was never notified of this prior to my rotation and thank goodness I was able to pay for gas and had a car. What if you had an intern who needed to take the bus? You literally could not do this rotation unless you ubered. So bottom line, ask if you will be traveling during the day and be prepared.
I’ve said this before stories but I have an incredible amount of respect for kitchen workers. The work is not glamorous, you are on your feet ALL DAY, and you are doing the same thing over and over, smelling the same smells. By week 10 I was nauseated by the smell in the kitchens so much so that I had no desire to eat on my lunch breaks. Think about making 1,000 burgers and then being offered food to eat. Like no thank you?
A Typical Day
My typical day consisted of coming into the main office- working on a task I had been assigned like creating a menu for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program or flyer for a new menu item then by a certain time usually 10 am, I would head out to a kitchen site and work there till about 1:30 pm. That work consisted of food prep for the following day and current day. Some days I took inventory and received shipments from vendors and helped check every item in, some days I was just like any other kitchen worker- assigned a series of tasks usually in frozen food prep. I learned how to work the POS machines that did the breakfast and lunch transactions for the kids so I could have my own lunch line. I also got really darn good at the 3 compartment sink, cleaning my areas (there is a specific way), and knowing where every item in the giant kitchen belonged. I learned what temperatures were appropriate for what cleaner, what temperature items needed to be to be safe (no food borne illnesses plz), which items could be salvaged after lunch and which items needed to be thrown away :(.
I would then change out of my kitchen safe shoes, pants, apron, hairnet, and shirt back into business casual to come back and work on those same morning tasks or get new tasks. I started at 7 am and left at 3:30 pm and for the first about 5 weeks I came home so exhausted that I collapsed on the floor and coulden’t make it to gym classes. I was POOPED.
Gloves for everything. If you touch any part of your body, hair, or clothes, you need to re-wash you hands when working with food.
Be as kind as you can even when you literally never want to look at and count another frozen meat patty ever again. Most food service sites get a lot of interns and they are pretty jaded by the experience. They really get tired of explaining where everything is again to a new person, the interns are slow compared to a worker who has been plating tater tots and working the payment system for 10 years, and you are the youngest person in the room likely by 15-30 years. It’s important to smile, be wiling to help with ANYTHING- yes even scrubbing squashed kidney beans off the floor after the lunch hour, and try and get to know the personal stories of the workers there. By you wanting to know about them they want you to be there and start to enjoy your presence too. The ladies told me they liked me because I talked to them, ate their Armenian bread breakfasts with them, and knew their names and where everything was. They told me that what they didn’t like about other interns was that they kept to themselves, were rude, and didn’t try and blend in with each kitchen culture (they are all so different). I ended up working at 3 kitchens regularly so that I knew something personal about almost every worker in there and could ask how their kids soccer games were going, how their daughters engagement parry planning was going, or if they enjoyed their weekend with their husband.
Get to know the office culture. Every place you go is going to be very different. Try and just be a neutral observer to what’s happening around you and adapt accordingly (except don’t get involved in the gossip if you can help it- there will always be gossip- remember neutral observer). Try and learn every person’s name and something about them. Share stuff about yourself too and offer to help with literally anything. Again, you are at their service. Remember, they are helping you become an RD at the end of the day!
A gossip note: You WILL be told office gossip. Just zip your lips and listen and nod. You do not need to spread that stuff anywhere BECAUSE you will likely be told various angles of the gossip and also you don’t want to burn any bridges. In every rotation I have been told gossip- sometimes I’m stuck hearing all sides of the gossip too- yikes. You are a very impermanent part of the organization so it’s best to just realize that people like to talk and they need an ear. You can support and be empathetic and then just push it out of your brain!
Questions from you:
Did you have any special projects in this rotation?
Yep! I enjoyed making a menu for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the month of September- a federally assisted program that helps expose elementary school kids to exotic produce! I got to see if things like dragonfruit and kiwi berries were in the budget and made it work for the amount of students attending. Another intern Maddie and I (GUSD always had more than 1 intern at 1 time- the rest of my rotations I have been alone) were assigned the task of taking inventory of the kitchens. That was hard work. We went into every kitchen, had to check for bar codes of expensive items like ovens, label everything, and record in a GIANT spreadsheet. That took us the last few weeks and we only made a dent in maybe 10 schools? I also made bulletin boards for every elementary school to be displayed in the kitchens. I had a new menu item flyer to make about every week too- I used canva A LOT. I was also there to experiment and lead the Share Table at different school sites where students can give back their unopened food for other kids to enjoy if they are still hungry in an effort to reduce food waste. There is SO MUCH FOOD WASTE.
What were your preceptors expectations of you?
I was expected to show up on time, dress appropriately (business casual), be ready and willing to help with any task, and to be open to learning and criticism. I wasn’t expected to know anything crazy for this rotation. This one was more about how I can be a kind person who is eager to to help and assist and just absorb and learn.
Tips on adjusting to different styles of preceptors?
Oh this is very important. This was my first exposure to a preceptor. She was great! She graduated from my program and was very smart and poised. I learned that I had to ask this very important statement/question because some preceptors will tell you when you are doing well- some will not. Thank you for that helpful feedback, could you also tell me areas that I am excelling in?
Let me just tell you this right now- you will receive SO MUCH constructive criticism this year. Some of it might cut right through you if you are in a vulnerable position that day and you may feel like you suck and aren’t doing well. I promise you if you are trying your best, you are doing good enough. You just may need to ask for examples of things you are doing well. Some people just assume you know if they didn’t criticize something that means it was good. I am not a person who is ok with that. I need a gentle pat on the back or a “thank you Connie, this is great!” for me to be like “ok, phew, they don’t hate me, I’m doing ok”. It’s ok to ask if you aren’t given something positive in your half way review or at the end of finishing a project. I’ll touch on clinical when we get to that bridge- that adjustment is hard.
Did I discover something new about myself?
100% I learned I’m really not a details person. I was given many tasks this rotation that were super detailed oriented and I was given a lot of revisions because my brain just doesn’t catch stuff like that. Excel? Yikes- I had a lot of learning to do- I won’t lie to you- I really stink at excel. I also learned the power of humanness. I am a nice and social human and I let that carry me though the rotation allowing me to really jive with any kitchen I was placed in. I talked to everyone and I even knew kids at the school from working at the YMCA so it was fun to connect with them in that way too!
How did you manage your meals during this rotation?
First I would like to say that since I moved in with my parents for graduate school I don’t have to worry so much about dinner and breakfast. I know that is a total luxury and I am incredibly appreciative to have a hot meal waiting for me when I get home. I was in charge of lunches and obviously making my breakfast and snacks. For lunches I did eat a lot of school food. I think a lot of interns turn their nose and eat what they packed, which is fine, but I wanted to experience what the kids in Glendale Unified were eating. I ate almost everything on the menu and most liked the pizza and salad bars. I did really try almost everything though and it was pretty good! I got really bored of it by week 10- not gonna lie- so then I brought my lunch or I brought it regardless actually, and in case I wasn’t sent to a school site I had food to eat.
How did I stay organized?
I made to-do lists when I finished my day so I knew what was left to do upon returning to my desk the next day. I also kept a journal of what I did each day (we have to do this for our program) and then compiled everything in an intern binder which was to be turned in and graded. This binder had my time sheets, my daily recaps, examples of my work, and my 5 week and 10 week performance review.
Favorite and least favorite part?
I enjoyed speaking to and getting to know the kitchen workers and GUSD staff the most- also having other interns by my side made me not feel so alone in this process. I also enjoyed seeing inside the GUSD system. I wasn’t part of it as a child since I went to private school so it was just nice to see what it was all about. Also, the kids. It’s no secret I love kids so getting to chat with them with the pilot program of the Share Table or at the lunch line was really fun for me. I even got a few hugs from past campers who asked if I was a lunch lady now lol. Least favorite was prepping frozen food. I will never forget the day I removed 1,000 frozen meat patties from boxes and prepped them to be cooked. Ugh- just monotonous and cold, very cold. I prepared frozen stuff every day and like I said- I have a lot of respect for the people who do this job every day- it’s hard! Oh- I also wore an apple suit. So I hope this makes you smile!