Di­eti­tian hopes to help lower state’s obe­sity rate

Starkville Daily News - - AROUND TOWN - By GINNA PAR­SONS Daily Jour­nal

VERONA – When Sa­man­tha Will­cutt was an un­der­grad stu­dent at Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity, she waited ta­bles at an up­scale res­tau­rant called The Veranda, even­tu­ally work­ing her way up to man­ager.

She saw how re­ally good food made peo­ple happy, but she wanted a more in­ti­mate set­ting, so af­ter grad­u­a­tion, she went to work for Zoes Kitchen, which spe­cial­ized in made-from-scratch, fresh, healthy Mediter­ranean-type fare.

“I trav­eled around the coun­try, open­ing new restau­rants and man­ag­ing them for a while,” said Will­cutt, 37. “I was read­ing about nu­tri­tion all the time and what food was do­ing to my body and other peo­ple’s bod­ies. I wanted to push my­self to learn more.”

So, af­ter 10 years in the res­tau­rant busi­ness, Will­cutt headed back to MSU and earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in nu­tri­tion in 2016.

“While I was get­ting my mas­ter’s, I did a grad­u­ate as­sist­ant­ship in the Of­fice of Nu­tri­tion Ed­u­ca­tion at MSU Ex­ten­sion,” she said. “It was a nice com­bi­na­tion of learn­ing about nu­tri­tion and help­ing peo­ple. That’s when I said, ‘Yep, this is for me.’”

In Oc­to­ber 2016, Will­cutt be­came one of three re­gional di­eti­tians Ex­ten­sion hired to help in the fight against obe­sity and chronic dis­ease in Mis­sis­sippi.

The state has the sec­ond high­est adult obe­sity rate in the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to “The State of Obe­sity: Bet­ter Poli­cies for a Health­ier Amer­ica” re­leased in Au­gust 2017. Mis­sis­sippi’s adult obe­sity rate is cur­rently 37.3 per­cent, up from 23.7 per­cent in 2000 and from 15 per­cent in 1990.

Will­cutt over­sees the north­east re­gion of the state. Two oth­ers came on board this sum­mer: Kaitlin DeWitt over­sees the south­east re­gion and Juaqula Mad­kin man­ages the south­west re­gion. The north­west po­si­tion hasn’t been filled yet.

Through the Of­fice of Nu­tri­tion Ed­u­ca­tion, they over­see Ex­ten­sion’s

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(Photo by Daily Jour­nal staff)

Sa­man­tha Will­cutt, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian, joined MSU Ex­ten­sion’s Of­fice of Nu­tri­tion Ed­u­ca­tion in 2016 to help in the fight of obe­sity and chronic dis­ease in Mis­sis­sippi.

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