by Shannon Gleba, Staff Writer
Locke’s Loft, the Manhattan College dining hall, plays an integral role in many parts of students’ lives, acting as both a place to socialize as well as to fuel their healthy lifestyle. This year, students can meet a new member of the Gourmet Dining staff there, as Sara De Luca has joined the team as the Campus Dietitian & Sports Nutritionist.
De Luca took over the role shortly before the semester started.
“After I submitted my job application online, I completed a phone interview, as well as an in-person interview with the Dining Director, Nick Valinotti. I accepted the job offer at the beginning of August, and began working at MC two weeks later on August 16,” said De Luca.
A new dietician on campus should come as no surprise to students, as the job has been filled and vacated a number of times within the last few years.
“I’m unsure why there is turnover, the community is welcoming and the position is very rewarding. Some dietitians use this as a branch to get their foot in the door to other opportunities in the industry like Sports Nutrition, oncology nutrition, clinical or even community nutrition. We’re excited to have Sara because higher education nutrition is her dream job,” said Nicholas Valinotti, Gourmet Dining District Manager.
Having a Registered Dietician available to students on campus is important, as many students experience different dietary needs. However, De Luca also spends her days helping students whose needs are not out of the ordinary.
“Every day is different. Some days, I am hosting nutrition tabling events on campus and other days I am brainstorming and/or creating the materials for the events in my office. In between that, I am counseling students one-on-one in my office to help them navigate the dining halls with food allergies, intolerances, underlying medical conditions, dietary restrictions, and/or answering other nutrition questions they may have,” said De Luca.
“I have also been doing a lot of personalized and group education with the sports teams on campus to help them achieve their performance goals.”
In the past few weeks, the MC Gourmet Dining Instagram page has featured a number of different initiatives that have appeared in Locke’s Loft.
For example, on Sept. 13, Gourmet Dining celebrated National Celiac Awareness Day, and De Luca was available to answer students’ questions while offering gluten-free cupcakes at a table in the dining hall.
There are also other photos on the Instagram page featuring events like National Guacamole Day, and one caption said, “You can make an appointment to see Sara one-on-one for help with your nutrition goals on campus! Email email@example.com to schedule an appointment today!”
These events and initiatives are only the beginning of the plans De Luca has in store for this academic year.
“I am excited to bring more nutrition education to the students through tabling events, free nutrition assessments, cooking classes and general nutrition education throughout the dining halls. I am also excited to work with the athletics department and teams to help them build up a sports nutrition program, if possible,” De Luca said.
Promoting general health is another goal of De Luca’s.
“I would like to utilize the college’s resources on campus to promote public health, conduct nutrition research, and implement more sustainability initiatives on campus,” said De Luca.
While in college, De Luca struggled to use healthy food as fuel for her busy lifestyle as both a student and athlete.
“Once I began to use food as fuel, and incorporate more rest and recovery into my daily routine, I saw an immediate improvement in my energy levels and overall mental and athletic performance. The better that I felt, the more that I studied nutrition. I committed to learning more so that I could help others learn how to use nutrition as a tool to better their health and wellness to prevent chronic disease and/or achieve a competitive edge in athletics,” she said.
While De Luca was able to learn good habits, she wants to make sure MC students get off on the right foot, and establish healthy habits from the start.
“I also believe that what you learn in college will stay with you for the rest of your life, and good nutrition habits should definitely be one of them as students become more independent and self-reliant,” said De Luca.