BROOKINGS, S.D. — While most of her peers let their taste buds decide whether they consume a snack or not, Melissa Vondrak needs to first review the ingredients list.
“I was diagnosed with Celiac disease when I was 12. All of a sudden I went from being normal and eating anything I wanted, to having to completely change my diet so that I avoided gluten,” explains the new SDSU Extension Community Health Assistant.
A Registered Dietitian helped Vondrak and her mom navigate the gluten-free world and motivated Vondrak to pursue a degree in Dietetics at South Dakota State University.
In her role as an SDSU Extension Community Health Assistant, Vondrak will work with South Dakotans as a community dietitian for the Sioux Falls Health Department; guide SDSU Extension staff to help youth make healthy eating and lifestyle decisions as the Fuel Up to Play 60 program facilitator for Team Nutrition, and she will provide nutrition education to individuals and families as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educator.
“Melissa has the personal and professional experience to serve South Dakotans in this diverse role,” said Suzanne Stluka, SDSU Extension Food & Families Program Director.
Before joining the SDSU Extension team this September, Vondrak spent a year as a dietetics intern with Montana State University. Throughout the year, she gained a variety of experiences, including, but not limited to, working with community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers, teaching food preservation classes and working alongside dietitians at a hospital in Billings, Montana assessing the nutritional status of patients and assisting in medical nutrition therapies.
“I know how much working with a dietitian helped me. I will work to make a difference in the lives of South Dakotans through community nutrition outreach and one-on-one guidance,” Vondrak said.
— SDSU Extension
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