Heather Peracchio MS, RDN, CD-N
Do you have a current/past position with the CT AND Board?
I have been many positions on the CT AND board but currently I am the Food Security and Sustainability Co-Chair.
What inspired you to become a RDN?
My first year at UConn I found the course ‘The Science of Food’ fascinating and was inspired to take more classes in Nutritional Sciences. I have had an interest in food and cooking from a young age. In fact, my mom taught after school cooking programs for elementary age students and I was her assistant.
Where do you work now and where have you worked in the past?
I currently work as an Assistant Extension Educator at the University of Connecticut based out of the Fairfield County Extension office. I have been faculty at UConn since 2008, first working in the Department of Allied Health Sciences as a community nutrition preceptor (2008-2012) and then transferred to my current role and office in Bethel, CT (2012-current) as my husband and I settled in nearby Brookfield and started our family. I also worked part-time as an outpatient dietitian at Community Health Center, Inc. covering Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford locations 2012-2018.
What is your favorite recipe/food?
I could never pick just one! I love cooking and have many favorites. I especially enjoy sharing recipes with friends and clients that are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare.
How is food related to your culture?
My parents and grandparents valued food and its origin. My grandparents on my fathers side were farmers and very much connected to the land. My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm, Quinnequack Farm in Northeast Connecticut and my grandmother as the daughter of a dairy owner, Arrow Lakes Dairy in Cranston, RI. My grandparents on my mothers side were avid gardeners and wonderful cooks. Growing up my parents and grandparents shared many stories and recipes that had been passed down to them.
General tip for improving diet?
Make half your plate fruits and veggies! I am always sure to share this simple tip in presentations as it can easily shift one’s diet in a more healthful direction.
If stranded on island-what one food or beverage you would want an unlimited supply of?
What is the best part of your job?
I love my job because each day is different. At times I am working on research projects or writing grants, other times I am connecting with community partners such as emergency food sites or I might be in the field giving presentations or attending health fairs. No two days look alike.
How has Covid-19 changed the way that you do your job?
The majority of my work has shifted to telecommuting, spending much of my day in virtual meetings or chatting with colleagues on Microsoft teams. My nutrition presentations and class series have transitioned to a virtual format. Also all data collection tools that were traditionally pen and paper have been transitioned to online survey formats. It is certainly different but I am still doing what I love.
Where do you want to see the RDN/NDTR profession in 10 years?
I would love to see RDNs working more in primary care. In my role at CHC I saw the value and appreciation for RDNs in primary care and enjoyed working as part of an interdisciplinary team. I hope that model of care expands and RDNs work more in primary care clinics as well as alongside pharmacists in community pharmacies. Pharmacies are quickly becoming the go-to resource for primary care and will become more important as vaccination efforts increase. I feel this could be a great place for multidisciplinary work and a great way for RDNs to connect with patients.