Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Lydia West's strong memories of her family spending time in the kitchen and eating together with friends started a life-long interest in food, nutrition, dietetics and serving others, she says.
West was born and raised in Jackson, Miss., and graduated from Murrah High School in 1997. She attended Mississippi State University and graduated in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in human sciences with an emphasis in food, nutrition and dietetics. After working for several years at locations in the U.S., including Baton Rouge and New Orleans, she received a master's degree in public health from Tulane University in 2010.
She then returned to the Jackson area and began to work with the Mississippi State departments of health and public education, helping them understand federal regulations for school lunches and implementing initiatives to increase physical activity among Mississippians. West started her own company, Healthy Regards LLC, in 2013 to continue this work.
In an effort to better understand the culinary world and recipe development, West enrolled in school once again, this time pursuing an associate's degree in culinary arts technology from Hinds Community College. She graduated in 2016.
West became the president of MSAND in 2018. She is involved with many different projects.
"Anywhere there is food, there is work for a dietician," she says. She teaches nutrition at Delta State University as an adjunct professor, and helps manage a project through the Mississippi Department of Education called Mississippi Recipes for Success, which is a recipe index for child nutrition programs in Mississippi, but is online so it can be used across the nation.
One of the things she is most excited about is her role as the project manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' "Move Your Way" campaign, she says.
"The concept is that whether you are cleaning your house or running a half-marathon, everyone can find a way to be active," she says. "Do what works for you."
Jackson is one of two pilot sites in the country for the second edition of the "Move Your Way" campaign, which encourages people to be physically active for 150 minutes each week. She has been involved with the program's roll-out since October 2018.
West has lived and worked in many parts of the country, but always returned to Jackson. "Jackson is home," she says. "It is where my family is, blood family, and long time friends family."