Carol Chong is the National Nutrition Advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program. Carol was previously the Director, Food and Menu Management for the Miami-Dade County Public School District. She served in this capacity for over 6 years, overseeing the menu and food procurement including bids and writing food specifications. She was instrumental in changing the “face of the food” by increasing the quality of products including branded items and thereby increasing student participation of the school meals program.
Prior to this she was the Director of Staff Development and Training and Nutrition Education for 7 years, implementing train the trainer programs for food service managers, in-class nutrition education presentations and teacher-training workshops integrating nutrition-related lessons aligned to the district’s Competency Based Curriculum and the State of Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. Before taking a career redirection into Child Nutrition, Carol spent the majority of her time in the health care arena in several positions initially as a clinical dietitian and then as administrative director of dietary services.
She also served as a nutrition educator, and her experiences include conducting cooking classes for hospital patients and for the Miami community. She also held positions as adjunct faculty at Pratt Institute, NYU and Miami Dade College for nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management subjects.
Carol is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Bachelor of Science from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in Food Service Management, Nutrition and Dietetics and, a Master’s degree from New York University in Foods, Nutrition and Dietetics.
Q&A With Carol
1. What is it that you really do at Healthier Generation?
Great question, pretty much whatever I am told to do! Actually, I have been designated as the resident expert on school food and nutrition services since I spent the last 14 years of my life in that arena. I provide information and assistance to anyone and everyone who wishes to know details on school foods and services from buying good quality foods to working with manufacturers of food products and equipment to school districts needing assistance in doing all of that; federal regulations pertaining to the programs; nutrition education for students, staff and parents; writing and developing new resources for stakeholders use and Alliance staff and networking across the country to spread the message of the Alliance and how we can support the quest for excellence in food and nutrition services for children.
2. What has brought you and kept you in this line of work?
My passion for food and nutrition. Food nourishes bodies and minds, it is awesome to be able to put that together and create change for people to take care of themselves in making that connection. Literally, “you are what you eat and…what you do with what you eat!”
3. Why schools or out-of-school time?
Children are our future, schools or out –of-school time gives you an environment to capture time with them as “captive audiences.” Knowing that knowledge is power, being able to empower kids in a learning environment is the key to changing their health status, attitudes and skills to become healthy adults.
4. On the rare, almost nonexistent, occurrence when you’re not being healthy, what is your guilty pleasure?
I am a carbs person, so freshly baked bread and “real butter” is something that gets me every time!
5. Are there any changes or developments in the school or out-of-school time health space that have caught your attention and you are excited to see continued?
Though difficult in implementation, the changes in federal regulations that are mandating healthier foods for schools has me excited. We know that children should eat healthier, there are so many choices and challenges in the food “world” that can really sabotage your health and of course are usually much more appealing to the eyes and even tastes. Mandates that serves to “make schools do the right thing for the health of our kids” is great, because it moves the needle from dollars to sense!
6. If you were just starting to make healthy change at your school or out-of-school time setting, what would be the first thing on your to do list?
Teach the kids about health and nutrition and making choices that impact their health, with moderation and balance “all foods can fit.” So the foods that we fondly call “ junk,” which are the most enticing, can fit into a balanced and moderate diet and lifestyle. Pizza every day is not balance or moderation, but occasionally it's fine.
7. Do you have any “unique” physical activity practices (e.g. do you partake in roller derby)?
No, I am not that daring, but I do dance marathons occasionally!
8. What is your favorite part of your job?
Meeting people and sharing my knowledge and skills to help to make a difference!