If the face looks familiar, you may have caught the country music video or auto part commercials she appeared in. Or seen her in a Royal Caribbean ad, on a sports billboard or while flipping through a hospital brochure.
No, Nancy Farrell (BS ’82, nutrition sciences) isn’t an actress but she occasionally plays one in the name of the cause she’s devoted all of her professional life to.
“To be able to promote my profession of preventative nutrition through my appearance is a gift of genes, and longtime healthy, smart eating practices,” she says.
The Virginia-based registered dietitian nutritionist and host of YouTube’s ‘Nancy Nutrition Minute’ knew what she wanted to do with her life before she even started high school, which she finished in three years.
“Ever since I was in the eighth grade, I knew I wanted a career in the medical field as a registered dietitian nutritionist,” she says. “An RDN is different than a nutritionist and requires a four-year college degree — and soon a mandatory MS degree; completion of a hospital internship; and a board-certified exam. Because nutrition is an ever-evolving science, continuing education credits are a career requirement.”
Which brought her to the UI in the fall of 1978.
“Only a month after turning 17, I entered my dorm room at Allen Hall. This dorm, while comfortable, was an older one on campus and seemed to cater to an eclectic group of students. One semester later, I moved into a triple room in Wardall Hall with upper-class girls in need of someone, anyone, to keep their triple room. I remember late night study sessions in the cafeteria of Wardall Hall. I sat there with friends as we studied and ate Wheat Thins crackers. I do remember Garcia’s pizza in town and their Flying Tomato van and hot air balloon.
“Most of my time was spent at Bevier Hall. I recall Professor Carol Ries as one our nutrition instructors,” among many other things, including:
— “Nutrition classes that involved students completely running the Bevier Hall café — purchasing, preparing and serving the food; working with large cooking equipment; marketing and managing the accounting and bookkeeping of our ‘restaurant.’”
— “A basic nutrition science class where one of our first projects was to make mayonnaise from scratch — and just recently, I was interviewed by a reporter on the art and safety of making homemade mayonnaise.”
— “A nutrition dining class that required us to plan, cook and serve a meal for six fellow students, and very importantly, doing so in an organized non-stressed manner while keeping our kitchen tidy. To this day, I tell my adult kids that nobody wants to enter a dinner party, or restaurant, where there is obvious chaos in the back kitchen.”
— “Taking my BioChem class and lab in summer school one year — goggles and experiments later, I was glad to have passed.
“I eventually moved into a red, brick apartment building on the corner of Springfield and Lincoln avenues. From there, I would bike to campus or using Busey Avenue would bike to my job as a diet clerk — and eventually promoted to diet technician — at Carle Hospital. Carol Burge was the chief dietitian at the hospital and my mentor. Some of those work hours were at 5:30 a.m. on the weekends — patients had to eat and be attended to. The streets were always quiet, and peaceful during those early morning rides.
“Because of my academic and work experience, I was accepted into the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics internship program. My career as an RDN has allowed me many opportunities and experiences as I have worked in a variety of positions — public health, state and federal public policy, clinic and hospital and supermarket experiences and in the media; and frequently am on Capitol Hill advocating for food, nutrition and health programs that benefit the public.
“I teach health and nutrition at both a local community college and to nutrition graduate students at my alma mater, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in north Chicago. While I have my own medical nutrition therapy private practice where I counsel patients, I also serve as one of 30 nationwide spokespersons for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and have appeared on national TV and been quoted in a variety of print interviews.
“Now, as a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I can look back and see that I owe my experiences and opportunities to the academic and life-lesson foundations I first learned while attending the University of Illinois.”