North Shore Community College (NSCC) has been awarded $199,621 to fund the accreditation of its Nutritional Science & Diet Technology Degree (NSD) program and attract more Hispanic students to it, within the next four years.

The grant comes from the federal Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grant program promotes and strengthens the ability of HSIs to carry out higher education programs in food and agricultural sciences.

NSCC’s project is titled Accredit, Attract, Achieve, Advance. “The college has a rigorous two-year associate degree program in nutrition science; however, the program is not accredited. This means that after graduation students cannot obtain registration and licensure to practice nutrition therapy. However, there is an entry-level dietetic technician, registered (DTR) credential, and nutrition graduates who obtain this credential can work under a dietitian,” said Professor Ginny King, MPH, RDN-AP, LDN, Department Chair of NSCC’s NSD. “When accredited, our students will be able to sit for the DTR exam and gain meaningful employment in mission critical professions.”

The college will seek accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), which is a branch of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). There are currently no accredited programs in Massachusetts and only one in New England, yet healthcare leaders are actively seeking DTRs but cannot fill vacant positions.

“Nutrition education and counseling are powerful tools to address health disparities in the US, especially for non-communicable diseases. However, diversity in the dietetics profession is lacking,” King said. “Notably, only 5% of nutrition and dietetics professionals identify as Hispanic. NSCC, an HSI, has a 28% Hispanic enrollment rate in a community with a population of 40% Hispanics.

As an HSI, NSCC will seek to attract, educate and train traditionally underrepresented populations in the field of nutrition and dietetics. The program aligns with the USDA’s efforts to cultivate the next generation of food and agricultural professionals and build the workforce of the future by providing academic support and career opportunities to enhance and increase access for Hispanic and underrepresented students. NSCC is an open access HSI with a large percentage of underserved students including adult learners and incumbent workers.

The project seeks to attract and increase Hispanic student enrollment by 10% each year starting in Year 2 from the Early College program, currently enrolled students, traditional and non-traditional learners, and change-of-career or career enhancement students and graduate them with an associate degree in nutritional science and diet technology. Because of strong community partnerships, Hispanic graduates can choose to continue working as a DTR or transfer to a four-year school, potentially with employer-sponsored tuition support, to earn a bachelor's or master's degree.

NSCC's project will educate students on various career opportunities, the career path to achieve these careers, and provide field experiences during their time of study. This is specifically accomplished in the newly created course "DTC 100: Introduction to the Dietetics Profession," where students will learn about the education needed to obtain credentials and earn advanced degrees.

Also, NSCC will use this grant opportunity to build upon an already existing nutrition program and its partnerships with other higher educational institutions. such as UMASS-Lowell and Simmons University, and local healthcare institutions, such as Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) and the Catholic Medical Center (CMC), to enhance its experience for students from the Hispanic community.

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