I first heard about Dayle Hayes, and the important work she’s doing in schools, when I worked for the dairy council. Although my position was not focused on school programs, the dairy council has a long history of championing school nutrition, so many of my colleagues were conducting innovative and impactful programs in the school arena. I’ve been watching her from the sidelines ever since and am thrilled to finally interview her and share some of the exciting work she’s doing in nutrition communications.

MELISSA: Dayle, how did you become interested in a career in food and nutrition and what is your food/nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?

DAYLE: I love everything about food – growing food, cooking food, sharing food, talking food – so food has always been at the center of my personal and professional lives. Not knowing much about careers in nutrition, I studied biology in college and tried high school teaching for two years. A teacher workshop by New England Dairy Council got my students – and me – into nutrition. So, off to graduate school at UMass Amherst and five years in the WIC Program I went. My current work with School Meals That Rock has brought me full circle to schools, teachers and working with dairy councils all over the USA. I am known as a passionate advocate for healthy children, healthy schools and focusing on positive nutrition. My philosophy: Let’s focus on what TO eat rather than what NOT to eat. In terms of children, let’s lead by example with a wide variety of delicious, appealing foods and not burden kids with the good-food/bad-food paradigm.

MELISSA: Absolutely – I couldn’t agree more! What are you working on right now?

DAYLE: School Meals That Rock is focused on the good news about school nutrition – the millions of amazing, eye-appealing breakfasts, lunches, snacks and suppers that are served from coast to coast every day. I was inspired by the unending stream of negative school food stories that are frequently biased, mostly inaccurate and usually outdated.

In my current work, I have three mantras about school nutrition:
•    School Meals Improve Learning Environments (SMILE)
•    Breakfast. Every Student. Every Day.
•    It’s only nutrition when they eat or drink it.
I use these in my paid work (presentations, training and writing) for local/state/federal agencies,  non-profit organizations, and agricultural groups like beef, dairy, mushrooms, cranberries and eggs. They are also the foundation for my social media work and volunteer leadership.

Here are some photos of School Meals That Rock and some of the foodservice directors who help make it happen:












MELISSA: I love your mantras and I’m so glad you are working with such important organizations – dietitians need to have a seat at the table and help guide the food and nutrition conversation, innovation and policies. Tell us about all of the different types of food/nutrition communications you’re engaged in.

DAYLE: I utilize every communication channel that I can to promote my business and school meals in general. Here’s how:
•    SOCIAL MEDIA: Featuring an integrated stream of photos, news, tips and resources for school nutrition professionals and anyone who cares what kids eat at school
o    Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Huffington Post

School Meals That Rock Facebook Page

•    WRITING: Includes a variety of channels, both paid and volunteer, for both consumer and professional audiences (dietetic and school-focused)
o    School Meals That Rock Blog 31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Salad Bars Bring on the Produce
o    SNA Magazine article School Breakfast 2014: Can Cafeterias Rise and Shine?
o    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Position Paper Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years

•    PUBLIC SPEAKING: Recent examples
o    SNA ANC: July 2014 – Amazing Results from Smartphone Photography
o    FNCE: October 2014 – School Nutrition Boot Camp: Improving Nutrition and Wellness in Your Child’s School
o    BREAKFAST SUMMIT, Washington State AFHK: October 2014 – Breakfast. Every Student. Every Day. Because they can’t learn without it.
o    SD AND:  September 2014 –  Too Hungry To Learn: Why School Meals Matter to Students
o    VT SNA: October 2014 – S.M.I.L.E. = School Meals Improve Learning Environments: Why and How Child Nutrition is Essential to Vermont’s Future
o    MAHPERD: November 2014 – Making the Nutrition-Fitness Connection at School: Strong Bodies, Sharp Brains, and Smart Choices for Massachusetts Students

Dayle speaking at the 2014 ANC Session

o    Ad hoc pay-it-forward mentoring: Before getting into school nutrition, my business was one-on-one counseling for individuals with eating disorders. While I do not do any more counseling, I love mentoring colleagues in all aspects of social media and school consulting. This is mostly informal and usually virtual.

MELISSA: My head is spinning – I don’t know how you do it all! And I commend you for mentoring others and giving back to the profession in so many ways.
I’m curious about what comes naturally for you and what does not when it comes to food/nutrition communications.

DAYLE: Social media comes naturally to me. I could spend hours mixing photos and words to tell stories. I feel the same way about developing PowerPoint slides – it’s all about combining images and words to engage the audience in a conversation about something I love.

School Meals That Rock Pinterest Page




Writing research papers, like the recent update of the AND Child Nutrition Position Paper, does not come as naturally. While it is not as much ‘fun’ to do more formal or technical writing, I take every opportunity to do it because it provides a solid science foundation for my other work. Knowing the school food and child nutrition literature thoroughly enables me to answer critics and evaluate claims.

MELISSA: Interesting! Please share your top 3 tips to help other RDs improve their communication skills.

1)    EDIT OFTEN: Learn how to use the edit function whenever it is available, like on Facebook, Pinterest and WordPress. You don’t have to apologize in the comments – just go back and correct typos or errors. You can also delete a tweet or retweet.
2)    USE HELP: If you don’t know how to do something online, try the Help button before you ask someone to tell you how to it. If Help does not have the answer, try searching for the answer yourself. If you do get assistance from someone, be gracious with your thanks.
3)    SHARE LIBERALLY: Like the old adage – share and share alike – sharing the successes and work of others will return benefits to you. Sharing is about more than self-promotion; it is about building up the profession, creating networks and having conversations.

MELISSA: Wonderful words of wisdom! I especially like #3 and encourage all dietitians to “share liberally” and reap the many benefits of doing so. It lifts all boats and brings such personal and professional rewards!

I want to acknowledge and congratulate you for being honored with the Medallion Award by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! Here’s a small excerpt of some of the reasons you were chosen for this honor!

…her exceptional service contributions to the profession and the Academy.
…her significant role in moving the profession forward as an early adopter and promoter of technology in dietetics practice, champion of school nutrition and passionate advocate of science-based nutrition information through her media work and presentations.
…her inspiration as an outstanding role model and mentor. Hayes has mentored countless students, interns and colleagues, and encouraged non-traditional dietetic careers and entrepreneurship.
…her service to others in allied fields and the community. Hayes is an outstanding advocate for healthy children, schools and communities.
…she is a “treasure” who gives back to the profession that she loves at every opportunity.

Dayle having some fun with her Medallion Award

MELISSA: Dayle, I know you travel a lot – tell us a little bit about what you enjoy about traveling.

DAYLE: My favorite travel activity is to visit and photograph farmers markets, in the US and around the world. I love to stay in a foreign village or small town and learn where the locals shop – markets, stores, sidewalk vendors, wherever. These photos are from Thailand and Mexico.





EPILOGUE: Thank you to Dayle for sharing her story, but most of all, for all of the outstanding work she’s doing in the school nutrition arena!

Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!

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