By Patrick Brady
Gordon Reid, Stop & Shop president, presented a $100,000 donation to Framingham State Sept. 15 to establish the Stop & Shop Scholarship for Diversity in the Field of Food and Nutrition, according to a University press release.
The fund provides financial assistance to FSU students who are studying to become registered dietitians, according to the press release. “To apply for the scholarship, students will submit a one-page written essay highlighting their demonstrated commitment to health equity and diversity in their communities.”
According to the press release, once selected, an annual scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate student enrolled at the University in the Food and Nutrition Coordinated Program, which allows them to work toward earning a 4+1 Master’s degree.
President F. Javier Cevallos said the intent of the grant is to help “develop” diversity and inclusion in the registered dietitian ranks. The grant is open to all students who have a “strong commitment” to equity and diversity.
He said FSU’s nutritional program is “one of the best in the state.
“Professor Jerusha Nelson-Peterman has established a connection with Stop & Shop and [helped] fund internships for students,” Cevallos added.
Only one student per year can receive the scholarship, he said.
He also said the Stop & Shop program tries to help “diversify the ranks” of registered dietitians. “It is a profession that is dominated by white females, and they would like to have more diversity in that particular field.”
The applications won’t be reviewed by Stop & Shop representatives, Cevallos said. “Stop & Shop just donated the money.”
He said only the food and nutrition department can decide which students receive scholarships.
Megan Mayer, a food and nutrition professor, said the Stop & Shop grant was specifically designed to support the increasing level of diversity in the field of nutrition and dietetics.
She said the grant will be given to a food and nutrition major who’s studying to become a dietitian.
Mayer added undergraduates studying to become dieticians are eligible for the scholarship. Those who identify as a person of color, come from an indigenous population, are non-binary, or have physical/intellectual disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.
“The idea is we’re trying to broaden and diversify the field, so it’s not specific to a certain identity group,” Mayer said.
She said her department held a “number of events” last year in which they brought in different dietetic and nutrition professionals from underrepresented backgrounds. “A lot of them were dieticians of color who came in to talk about their career paths and their work in various settings.”
Upon attending one of the meetings, an individual from Stop & Shop took interest in “diversifying” the field of dietetics at Framingham State, she said. “And the partnership just sort of developed from there.”
Meeghan Bresnahan, a junior history major, said the grant will help break down the “barriers” of race and identity.
“Framingham State is one of the only colleges in Massachusetts that has a really good nutrition program,” she added.
Nicolle Fernandez, a sophomore psychology major, said she’s pleased to learn the University is getting more grants to help disadvantaged students.
Additionally, she said she rarely sees “people of color” in dietician positions. Fernandez believes it is important the University is supporting students who perform diversity work through the grants.
Meghan Quinlan, a graduate food and nutrition major, said she believes the grant is going to encourage people to apply who might not otherwise.
She added it’s nice to see a grant supporting the “enhancement” of diversity.
“It ties nicely together because all of the Stop & Shops that I’ve been to support their community,” she added.
Andrew Composto, a sophomore communication arts major, said it’s helpful for the University to implement more diversity-related grants.
Lily Borst, a junior business management major, said the grant is important because it gives students the “best opportunities possible.”
Mayer said one student from the food and nutrition department will be awarded $6,000 per year, she said.
Mayer added that along with the $100,000 Stop & Shop grant, another $32,000 from the State of Massachusetts was added to the “pool of money” in order for the grant to become an endowed scholarship.
She said students who apply for the grant are required to provide a written statement” about their experience and what they would bring to the field. Students who are in their final year of the undergraduate dietetics program are eligible to apply.
Mayer said her department understands students often have to work while they’re in school. “When they’re doing their dietetic internship rotations, often their time is very limited in terms of their ability to work.”
She said she hopes the grant “alleviates” some of the financial burdens of being a student. Additionally, Framingham State’s connection to Stop & Shop has created other benefits.
“We connected them with the Rams Resource Center on campus. … [It] is now a Stop & Shop School Food Pantry,” she said. “They’ve kind of been adopted by Stop & Shop in a way.
“[Stop & Shop] provided a contribution of $5,000 to the Rams Resource Center in the form of gift cards to help support students’ food and other kinds of toiletry needs,” she added.
The grant has paved the way for other “potential collaborations,” Mayer said.
She said, “I think it just opened the door for lots of different conversations that might help our campus community in ways that we didn’t expect.”