Meeting the Needs of Diverse Communities

March 10, 2021

Lorena Kaplan, RDN, LDN

It should be no surprise to dietitians that effective counseling starts with knowing and understanding your consumer's preferences and cultural practices. These create the fabric of our being and should not be taken lightly. You are at an advantage when you identify with the majority of your community but when you don’t this should be your prompt to want to learn and experience these sacred cultural differences. Here are a few considerations to review to make sure you are meeting the needs of communities in diverse markets.

Take an inventory of your resources
As you consider the resources provided by your program a good question to ask is "do I have diverse resources that speak to different ethnicities"? You should also review your resources to make sure they are available in prominent languages of the community. For assistance in this area reach out to a local foodways resource center. This will take some research and probing but also a great learning opportunity. Don't forget to consider colleagues a valuable resource that can provide insight into diverse opportunities.

Product knowledge is power
I've always felt like the best part of being a retail dietitian is having quick access to vendors to learn more about their products and how they fit into balanced nutrition. Tap into ethnic brands to learn how certain ingredients are used. Understanding these products and how they are used will help you make relevant recommendations that include these unique products.

Don’t underestimate your influence 
Making key relationships in your company can truly enhance your program in many ways. Aside from helping you grow your business skills, this can open channels of communication among key influencers that drive decisions on product assortment. Your expertise in nutrition science and understanding of the community's needs will make you the perfect influencer.

The most recent recommendations released by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize personalizing your plate to meet dietary needs while still considering the diversity of cultures.  This positions us to be effective and compassionate providers when we take the time to learn more about the needs of communities in diverse markets and become an advocate for diversity awareness.