Any of you RD2Be’s out there will know what I’m talking about, but for those of you that don’t know, FNCE is the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo that is held every year by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It is a huge expo filled with thousands of dietitians and future dietitians…and food. As part of my dietetic internship I’m required to go to FNCE, as I’m sure many other interns are, so I just wanted to share my experience and maybe some advice for those of you that are thinking of going next year.
While they were definitely the most exhausting part of FNCE, the educational sessions were actually one of my favorite parts of this experience. There are so many different topics to chose from, and many of them are topics that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to learn about. My favorite session was called “Food for Recovery: Resolving Malnutrition and Disordered Eating Patterns in Addiction and Substance Abuse Populations”. It was all about the cycle of addiction and relapse, and how food plays a large part in that. The dietitian who spoke actually worked in a rehab facility with patients overcoming addiction. It was so incredibly interesting and actually made me consider a career option that I had really never thought about before.
I also went to sessions involving non-traditional career paths, breast feeding, genetics and taste, and sports dietetics. The opening session was also incredibly inspirational. Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, spoke about opening his new market Daily Table. This is a grocery store in a low-income neighborhood of Boston where everything in the store is SNAP eligible. He also gets the majority of his food donated, and if not, at a very steep discount so he can sell this food to people for a much cheaper rate than a normal grocery store. They also sell ready-made meals like salads and other entrees to help encourage low-income individuals to eat more nutritious food. In general I think all of the educational sessions were very inspiring and made me feel pretty darn good about picking this career path.
Oh man.. the expo. I’ve never been to a big conference like this, so many expos are the same at every conference, but the expo was overwhelmingly wonderful. It was filled with free samples and wonderful smells. Pretty much every big-name “healthy” brand you could think of was there: Chobani, Kind, Subway, Chickfila, Haas, Dole, etc. I spent two mornings making my way through, ensuring that I hit every free sample and entered every giveaway. I also didn’t buy breakfast or lunch any day of the conference. Chobani and Siggis were both giving out free yogurt, Chickfila was giving out samples, Subway was giving out small sandwiches, there were free full-size salads for lunch… like I said, overwhelmingly wonderful.There were also some really cool new products as well. There was everything from a whole food tube feeding company, to a new tele-health company and few new apps for dietitians.
Other fun things
There is more fun to FNCE than just the sessions and Expo. There were all sorts of cool practice group events going on in the morning before FNCE opened. I got to go to a really fun event called Yoga and Yogurt with Siggi’s yogurt. We all just did yoga and then Siggi himself talked to us a little bit, and then we all got yogurt for breakfast! I also to got to go an incredibly fun, impromptu, networking event. A dietitian was staying with us and took us to her company’s networking event where we got to eat amazing food and go bowling. I was starting to feel a little bit like everyone in a normal 9-5 job was miserable, but this event restored my faith.
Advice for Next Year
If your going to FNCE next year, these are the things I would keep in mind to make the most of your weekend.
– Go to educational sessions
– Go to the sessions that sound interesting to you, don’t just follow one specific track: FNCE does provide a few “tracks” like sports dietetics, clinical, etc. but I found that just going to any sessions that I found interesting was the best option. This allows you to learn so much more than just one topic during your time at FNCE.
– Leave time for the Expo: While the sessions are great, don’t schedule a session for every second of the day. Leave yourself at least a few hours to make your way through the expo.
– Don’t buy food during the day: Don’t waste your money on breakfast and lunch. Trust me there is more than enough free food at the expo to get you through. FNCE is expensive, so save some money where you can.
– Go with other dietitians or future RDs: I actually stayed in a hostel with 8 or 9 other students and it made the experience so much more fun!
– Leave yourself some time to experience the city: This year FNCE was in Nashville, where I had never been before. We ended up getting there early on Saturday morning so we were able to do some exploring. Even though we had to get up early, we made sure to get out to dinner and a drink every night to see a little bit of Nashville. Next year is in Boston, so there will be lots to explore!
Overall I think FNCE was a great experience and I’m very glad I went. I learned so much and it left me feeling inspired to make a difference in my career. I definitely hope to go to Boston next year… (assuming I have a job by then)…