Sodexo brings in nutritionist

Lauren Vislocky, a senior communication sciences and disorders major, said she has struggled with nutrition ever since she left her home in New Jersey to attend Emerson. 

After joining the spirit squad for the college and working at a private gym, Vislocky said she discovered the importance of nutrition but never considered the idea of meeting with a dietitian. That is, until, she learned that Sodexo, Emerson’s new food service provider, brought in Karen Jew, a nutritionist of its own, with whom Vislocky has already scheduled an appointment.

“Why waste time looking at nutritional information,” said Vislocky, “when I can have someone telling me exactly what the healthy choices are?”

Jew said she reviews menus with students, pointing out the options available to them and soliciting feedback from them for ways Sodexo can better serve them. Students who visit her may have particular dietary restrictions or simply may be looking to identify healthier options, Jew said.

She said she also helps students understand and use Sodexo’s new services, like Mindful, an online system that provides nutritional information for all food served by Sodexo on campus, and My Fitness Pal, a website that supplies a calorie counter and diet planner. She said she also sometimes handles inquiries from parents.

According to Steven Canario, Emerson’s new general manager of dining services from Sodexo, Jew came to Emerson not because students requested more nutritional advising, but because a nutritionist is included in the services provided by Sodexo. Canario said not all colleges that use Sodexo for food services have an on-site nutritionist, although Sodexo has a nutritionist available to meet with any students in each area it serves.

Canario said that Jew is available to meet with all Emerson students, whether they are on meal plans or not, as frequently as they desire, and that at least 10 have visited her so far. Students can reach Jew by email or by stopping at her office in the dining hall to make an appointment.

“I think having Karen on board strengthens the team and provides an additional outlet for the Emerson community,” Canario said.

Jew is not the only nutritionist on campus — Elizabeth Avery, also a registered nutritionist, works in the Center for Health and Wellness. Jew said she and Avery speak regularly and coordinate on student cases. She said Avery often refers students with specific dietary needs and food allergies to work with her, and Jew assists them with nutritional options on campus.

Avery said she covers topics like current and past diets, medical history, weight, and exercise routines in introductory appointments, which generally last 45 minutes.

Those sessions aim to set up individualized goals for students’ best health, said Avery. 

To schedule an appointment with Avery, students must call the Center for Health and Wellness — walk-in consultations are not permitted.

For students like Robin Leventhal, a sophomore marketing communication major, the dining hall must be navigated with caution. 

Leventhal said she has Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. She said it is essential for her to maintain good nutrition to help her avoid sickness and stomach pain. 

Leventhal said she thinks it is honorable that Sodexo offers its own dietitian, and she appreciates that there is an expert with whom she could discuss Sodexo’s food options to accommodate her specific dietary restrictions, if she needed to. 

However, Leventhal said she has not visited Jew or Avery, although she said she was encouraged to do so by the college workers who helped her work out a meal plan after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease last January.

“I don’t need someone to tell me what to eat,” said Leventhal. “I already know what I can and can’t have when it comes to food in the dining hall.”