Samantha Willcutt (Staff)
Samantha Willcutt strives to help Mississippians put nutritionally balanced meals and snacks on their tables.
As the Mississippi State University Extension Service northeast regional registered dietician, Willcutt works with Extension educators in 22 counties through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-Ed, to implement strategies aimed at helping families find, choose and prepare healthier foods. SNAP-Ed, one of two programs administered through the Extension Office of Nutrition Education, is designed to help people in limited-resource communities combat chronic health conditions with better lifestyle choices.
“Working in the restaurant industry inspired my appreciation for food and nutrition,” Willcutt said. “But during my dietetic internship at MSU, I became interested in community nutrition.”
Willcutt and Extension county educators are providing schools and communities with various opportunities to learn about and make lifestyle changes. They cooperate with Extension agents to talk about fruits and vegetables in schools and communities. They also guide installation and use of fruit and vegetable gardens in schools, communities, parks and churches. Willcutt and her partners plan to teach people to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables with the hands-on Cooking Matters nutrition education series. They also are helping lunchroom managers encourage students to choose and eat more nutritious foods through the Smarter Lunchrooms program launched recently in select schools.
After graduating from MSU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, Willcutt spent about 10 years in the restaurant industry, managing The Veranda restaurant in Starkville and Zoe’s Kitchen Restaurants in various locations. In 2013, she returned to MSU, where she earned a master’s degree in nutrition in 2016. As a graduate assistant, she worked with the Extension Office of Nutrition Education. Willcutt took her current position five months ago and is looking forward to making a difference in people’s lives.
“Helping Mississippians to live healthier, more enjoyable lives through better lifestyle choices is the most rewarding part of my job,” she said.
National Ag Week, March 20-24, celebrates the industry that puts food on tables, provides clothing and sustains natural resources.