Dietary Management Program Underscores Hands-On Training and Flexibility


Are you a self-described foodie? Starting in the fall semester, UACCM is offering a new program in dietary management—where those who are passionate about nutrition can expand their knowledge and enter a career as a certified dietary manager. Admission of students into the program is now ongoing.

Here’s what you need to know about dietary management: 


What is a dietary manager?

A certified dietary manager is critical in the planning, storage, and preparation of meals. They assist in planning menus and inspect food to ensure proper dietary standards are met. Often these specialists counsel individuals on proper eating habits to lose weight or manage a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. They also put their administrative skills to work by using forecasts to determine food waste and keep inventory, manage a staff, and maintain records.  By becoming a certified dietary manager, examples of potential workplaces include government agencies that provide services on nutrition or health care settings, such as hospitals and long-term care facilities. This includes institutions in urban, suburban, and rural areas.


Dietary management is a field in high demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increasing national attention on nutrition and food safety will result in more nutritionists. Between 2018 and 2028, the Bureau projects an 11.2 percent growth in the field, resulting in 8,000 new jobs. Much of the demand is from retirements of the current workforce, though there are not enough in the educational pipeline to fill the need.

Starting salary for Certified Dietary Managers in Arkansas is $34,000 with an average salary of $41,000.


Graduates are workforce ready

Students pursue a one-year certificate of proficiency that is designed to help students gain their robust training and enter the workforce. The new major is a comprehensive 16-credit-hour program that blends classwork and 150 hours of field experiences, allowing graduates with the skills to enter the workforce immediately. The program follows the curriculum prescribed by the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), a national organization made up of dietary managers.


Dietary manager’s log

Much of the program is done in the field, where students are placed to train and get real-world experience at institutions. Students take three field experience courses at these facilities, which are selected for the student’s convenience.  

Erin Aylor, UACCM’s dietary management program chair, provides a sense of the dietary manager’s day-to-day tasks:

“You unlock the door and flip on the lights in the early morning. Your dietary department was left clean and in tip-top shape from the team members who closed last night. They see a strong sense of pride in a job well-done from you and mirror that in their own work ethic.  Soon, coming in behind you will be four dietary staff that you manage.

“Once breakfast is prepared and served to patients with care, you'll be working on the food order for the next week. Your keen eye for detail, trimming waste, and understanding accurate portions will save your facility over $2,000 in wasted food costs this month alone. As you make your way through the kitchen and encourage your staff, you see an opportunity to encourage one young lady who wants to become more in life than a dishwasher. She has goals in mind, and you've agreed to help mentor her. You make your way up to the rehab unit where stroke patients are receiving physical, speech, and occupational therapy.

“There is a new patient who arrived today. You conduct a 10-minute detailed nutrition screening. Your screening is then sent to the Registered Dietitian, who will most likely do a full assessment and care plan on this patient with dysphagia. You appreciate being an integral part of the nutrition care team at your hospital to help patients recover and thrive.

“Back in the dietary department, you oversee proper temperature checks, portion control, and dietary guidelines as patient trays are plated for lunch service. You then visit with patient families out in the hospital's dining center. You field a complaint from a customer who didn't like her grilled fish sandwich and rectify the situation immediately. You recognize the importance of good customer service in caring for all stakeholders of your facility. You wrap up the afternoon doing a second count of monies received in the cafeteria (per protocol) before securely delivering the money to the finance office for deposit.

“As an organized manager, you set on your desk a to-do list for the tasks that will be waiting for you in the morning. You speak to the night supervisor and make sure all dietary staff have arrived and are clocked in before leaving for the day at 4 P.M. The day may feel long, but you appreciate working four days per week. The three-day weekend will feel great!”


Program takes place in Monday-night classes

The program is flexible to students with busy schedules, as classes are scheduled on Monday nights. This allows students to still work part-time or full-time while coming to campus just one night per week.

  • Food Safety and Sanitation: This course promotes raising the food safety and sanitation competency level of all food service professionals. Topics covered include causes and prevention of food borne illness, safe food purchasing, receiving, storage, equipment sanitization, HACCP regulations, inspections, and crisis management. Students must successfully complete the final examination from the Educational Foundations of the National Restaurant Association to receive a final grade in the course.
  • Field Experience I, II, III: This course consists of 50 hours of hands-on, supervised experience in the food services department in a hospital, extended care, or health-related facility. It is designed to complement/reinforce the lecture classroom and activities.
  • Managing Food Service Programs: This course is a study of the organization and management of food service systems. Topics covered include planning, organizing, directing, controlling, and evaluating food service systems. There is a focus throughout the course on solid food service system practices and high-quality outcomes.
  • Diet Therapy: This course provides extensive coverage of diet therapy. Clinical descriptions for disease categories are followed by related medical nutrition therapy. Topics include dietary guidelines; menu planning; nutrition through the life cycle; client education; and medical nutrition therapy for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, gastrointestinal disease, liver and renal disease, etc.
  • Food Services Administration: This course focuses on food services operations relating to the management of food service personnel. Topics covered include employment laws, supervision and leadership, staffing and scheduling, recruitment and retention, staff development, and communication skills.
  • Nutrition: This course includes the science, principles, and application of nutrition for all age groups. There is an emphasis on the importance of nutrition as a preventative health measure and source of supply for our bodies’ changing needs.


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