A Love For People and A Love Of Food Is A Perfect Fit for Amy Haessly

September 14th, 2015

Good food is something that Amy Haessly gets excited about. As the Registered Dietitian for Vista Unified School District’s Child Nutrition Services department, she has made a tremendous impact on the quality of and education about food during her time with VUSD.


Originally earning a degree in Sociology from SDSU, Amy went back to school to satisfy her own curiosity about nutrition and found her new passion as a Registered Dietitian. She finished her program at Cal Poly and then came back to the VA at UCSD for her internship.


“When I was doing my internship I was working with an older man who had both diabetes and heart disease. This light bulb went off and I realized that it’s all about lifestyle. I know I don’t get out from behind my desk as often as I should. But I do think that there’s a correlation between healthy eating and feeling better. Everyone eats. And I love food. As a career choice, I don’t get tired of it. I don’t see myself ever getting tired of it. We are making an impact on public health in early education by what we serve and how we teach the kids about nutrition in the classroom. And that’s really exciting.”


In former positions Amy didn’t always have the freedom as the Registered Dietitian to plan the school menus. With that responsibility came working with vendors to procure supplies for meals to be made on school campuses either entirely or partially from scratch, labor, food service, and presentation.


Not surprisingly, menu costs are one of the largest costs that fall under the Child Nutritional Services umbrella. “I had no experience with dealing with any of the components of what it would have taken to make those menu choices. I had opinions but no experience. Then here comes Brock Smith and he says to me ‘You’re the Dietitian, you get to do the menu!’ I was overjoyed, because by that time I felt I had enough background to do an awesome job.


“There are so many things to consider when you’re planning the menu: The taste: will they eat it? Nutritional value. The cost: Can we afford to present this to our kids? Labor: can we cook it efficiently? Choices: are we giving these kids great healthy choices with variety everyday that will encourage them to be return guests here?”

The mother of two confesses, “I thought I’d be cursed with picky eaters but I’m able to guide them and I see them making good choices and they try more new things than I thought they would.”


Not only does Amy love to eat the food that she very selectively chooses for the Vista Unified Schools, she’s passionate about teaching about that food as well. Most second grade classes do a unit on nutrition and healthy choices, and that’s a situation where Amy shines brightest. “I go out into the classroom and we do a physical activity to get their hearts going so we can talk about the importance about having a healthy heart. And of course you always have to have a snack when you talk about food!


“When I’m there I also get a chance to pick their brains, to hear what they like about what we’re doing and maybe what we could improve on. We are truly partners in education. We are all about connecting with the teachers, the students, and constantly training our staff. You’d be surprised how much a smile can mean in a kid’s day. Our staff knows what your kids like to eat, they know their names and they greet them by name, everyday.”


Like any job, there are goals that we set for ourselves and great stories there are to share one of the programs that she would like to see happen that involves nutrition even as early as the elementary school level


Amy replied quickly, ”Some of these kids rely on Child Nutritional Services for all three meals a day. They don’t see anything ever getting planned or prepared at home, ever. How do we get them more prepared for more life-like educational opportunities?”


The job comes with plenty of humorous moments as well. A laugh erupts as Amy tells about a time she was doing a taste test with a group of young children. “The product was a lemon honey cake. The packaging had a lemon wedge and a bee on it. This little girl raised her hand and said to me ‘Excuse me but I’m sorry I can’t eat this.’ When I asked her why she told me it was because she was allergic to bees.”


Amy may not be allergic to bees; there are parts of her job that may sting a bit but the exceptionally sweet parts far outweigh the others by a long shot.