AB: I completed my nutrition education at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health; Dr. Marion Nestle (a role model who I’m also grateful to call a mentor) is a professor and past chair of that department. Fairly early into my studies I read her book “Food Politics”, which really opened my eyes.
Earlier this year, public health lawyer Michele Simon (another colleague whose work has inspired me) released an investigative report about the Academy’s Big Food ties. That report received national attention, and that was when I decided it was time to band together with other dietitians and start a grassroots advocacy movement.
JH: That is one of my favorite quotes! So tell us about the creation of Dietitians For Professional Integrity (DFPI). What is its mission and how do you envision its direction?
AB: DFPI’s central mission for now is to have the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sever its ties to Big Food. Some Dietetic Practice Groups within the Academy have also been working on this issue from the inside. Our efforts are not competitive, but rather complementary.
I like to use a pottery wheel as an analogy. When you’re using a pottery wheel, you need one hand to work inside and one hard to work outside. Similarly, you need dietitians to tackle this from inside the organization, and you also need some sort of external pressure.
AB: Our Change.org petition collected just over 25,000 signatures from dietitians, RDs-to-be, other health professionals, educators, health advocates, and concerned individuals who recognize that the Academy’s Big Food ties are problematic. Of those 25,000, roughly 1,200 came from dietitians and nutrition students.
AB: As Marion Nestle often points out, while “voting with your fork” makes sense and is valuable, you also can’t overlook the importance of “voting with your vote”.
Although my blog — Small Bites, which I ran for five years — is no longer updated, I post my latest articles there (smallbites.andybellatti.com). I am also very active on Twitter (@andybellatti).