Kimberly Gill: There are benefits to having a dietitian who understands your culture

Fewer than 3% of the nation’s dietitians are Black

Soul Food is a term used to describe foods traditionally prepared and eaten by Black folks.

Particularly in the American South, this style of cooking can be traced back to slavery. Often Blacks were given the leftover or less desired cuts of meat while their slave masters ate the meatiest, often healthiest cuts.

Foods like Ham hocks, Fatback and Chitterlings, which are the cleaned intestines of hogs, are great examples of this.

Even all these years after slavery, many poor Black and brown folks can still only afford these off-cuts meats. Not only do some of us eat these off-cuts of meat -- but we also season our vegetables with it too.

The foods we eat contribute to our mortality rate. What we saw during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how areas such as Detroit with food deserts, residents without health insurance and lower education levels made our folks more vulnerable to the disease.

I met dietitian Kimberly Snodgrass during a presentation on how cultural competence in the medical field and dietetics is needed. Cultural competence just means having people in places that look like you and or understand your culture enough to help you achieve your goals.

When systems don’t have people that look like you, you might not believe that your goals or in this case -- eating healthy -- is attainable. It can also be cumbersome or embarrassing for folks who eat some of the foods I mentioned to explain what their diet consists of.

What Snodgrass likes to explain to her patients is that it’s all about tailoring the recipe versus cutting things out completely.

For example, instead of seasoning collard greens with Ham hocks, perhaps try smoked turkey instead. Snodgrass said you can take the recipe your grandmother used, make it a little healthier and it can still be flavorful. But most minorities who seek help with their diet would never know this unless their dietitian could first understand their culture.

Fewer than 3% of the nation’s dietitians are Black. And that, Snodgrass says, needs to change. I hope you enjoy my story and her quest to educate others about the importance of cultural competence and what needs to happen to make it a reality.

About the Author:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.