Dietitian hopes to help lower state’s obesity rate
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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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.