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Nutrition and Dietetics Program Now Offered in Meridian

April 8, 2024

Two women talk in a food laboratory

Idaho State University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics will soon offer a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics to those in the Treasure Valley, based on demand for the program and the growing need for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) in the area.

 The only program of its kind in the state, it will offer 10 seats for qualified students in the first cohort, beginning in fall 2024.

The bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone for RDNs, who often work in health clinics and hospitals, but the career possibilities are much more broad than these traditional opportunities. Positions are frequently available at WIC, nutrition counseling companies, county extension offices, assisted living facilities, public health organizations, food banks, food service management operations, athletics organizations, schools, and higher education institutions, to name a few. 

“The landscape for dietitians is changing in Idaho,” said Char Byington, department chair at ISU. “Beginning this year, dietitians in Idaho are now required to have a master’s degree in order to take the credentialing exam to become an RDN. The bachelor’s degree in Dietetics is the first step toward that degree, so we are thrilled to be able to offer it both at our campus in Pocatello and now in Meridian.” 

Jenifer Reader, the undergraduate program director, says their newly renovated Foods Lab in Pocatello, with state-of-the-art equipment, provides the ideal learning space for the introductory Foods and Experimental Foods courses, requirements for the degree. In Meridian, Renaissance High School’s culinary arts kitchen will provide the needed lab space for students in these courses. Distance learning classrooms are also equipped to allow courses to be taught to students from either location.

“This expansion offers an option for students to more easily pursue a career as an RDN in Idaho. Our program incorporates various experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students, and I am looking forward to collaborating with new community partners in the Treasure Valley,” Reader adds.

An internship program for Nutrition and Dietetics students has been available in the Treasure Valley for nearly 20 years, which allowed students to obtain an additional certificate beyond the bachelor’s degree. In 2019, the internship program was converted to a master’s degree program in response to the upcoming requirements to take the credentialing exam. To accommodate the increase in students for the bachelor’s program, one new faculty member will be added to teach the additional courses in Meridian. 

The job outlook is bright for those in this industry, particularly in the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley areas. Byington explains that in health care in particular, these jobs truly reach across the lifespan for individuals, with nutrition education and care needed from early childhood all the way to older adults. 

Shaela Schenk, volunteer services Coordinator at the Idaho Foodbank facility in Pocatello said, “I've had the pleasure of working with the Nutrition and Dietetics program at Idaho State University for six years. Students and faculty have put in hundreds of hours of service which equates to thousands of meals being provided to our neighbors in need. I'm very excited about the program expansion to Meridian. I sincerely hope that the 10 students who enter the program there have an opportunity to experience a volunteer activity at the new Meridian location of The Idaho Foodbank.”

Students interested in the degree, in either location, must meet the prerequisites which are available at several colleges within Idaho. Once they have completed the requirements, they may apply for a slot in the medical nutrition therapy course, the introductory course for the bachelor’s degree. More information at isu.edu/bs-dietetics or by calling (208) 282-3091.


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