Francis Escolin ’22 recently became the first student at the University to receive a scholarship established by Stop & Shop that was created to support the educational advancement of aspiring nutritionists and dietitians from diverse backgrounds.
December 17, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Francis Escolin ’22 says that when he was growing up in Rutherford, NJ, his diet “wasn’t the best,” and he became overweight and prediabetic. He then discovered the important impact food can have on health. As he became healthier, he began to envision a future of helping others understand the importance of good nutrition.
A nutrition sciences major, Escolin’s commitment to the field has been recognized by Stop & Shop – the very store at which he remembers shopping with his mom and his aunt when he was a kid. He recently became the inaugural recipient of a scholarship created by Stop & Shop that will be awarded annually to undergraduate students of diverse backgrounds enrolled in the University’s nutrition sciences program.
“It means everything,” he said. “This helps me more than they could imagine. This is my calling. It was surprising to learn I’d received this, and it felt good. I feel like they care, and it feels good to be seen.”
‘We are grateful for the important investment’
Stop & Shop, a grocer that operates hundreds of stores in the northeast, presented $50,000 to the University to establish the Stop & Shop Diversity in Nutrition & Dietetics Scholarship, an endowed fund that will support students studying to become registered dietitians or nutritionists. The goal is to increase diversity in the field that, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Commission on Dietetic Registration, is more than 71 percent white.
“We chose to partner with the University of New Haven in this effort because of their commitment to recruiting and retaining students of color in this program,” said Rudy DiPietro, vice president of sales and merchandising for Stop & Shop. “Together, our aim is to break down historic barriers in the field of nutrition, so that more aspiring dietitians of color advance and ultimately create lasting change in the field and in our communities.”
“We are very grateful for the generosity of Stop & Shop,” said Brian Otis, vice president for university advancement at the University of New Haven. “We share Stop & Shop’s commitment to increasing diversity in the nutrition and dietetics fields, and we are grateful for the important investment they are making in our students’ futures.”
‘It’s never too late to make changes’
The scholarship aims to increase access to students entering the field of nutrition, which is becoming increasingly challenging. A new graduate-degree mandate goes into effect on January 1, 2024, requiring prospective nutritionists to earn a master’s degree in order to take the registration exam required to enter the field. The University developed a five-year accelerated bachelor’s + master’s program in nutrition sciences in response to the credentialing changes.
Representatives from Stop & Shop joined University faculty and staff to recognize Escolin and discuss the importance of fostering diversity in the field, as well as future possibilities for supporting each other in this initiative.
Stop & Shop employs a team of dietitians who offer services such as one-on-one consultations and nutrition classes. They also create recipes that are widely distributed to shoppers. This ability to connect with people and help them live healthier lives is what inspires Escolin.
“When I first heard about nutrition, I knew it was what I wanted to do,” he explains. “I wanted to help people understand how important food is. I did some research on obesity rates for a paper last year, and I wanted to be able to do something about it.”
Escolin aspires to visit lower income areas around the United States, promoting nutrition education by, for example, offering cooking classes. He hopes to help parents and kids understand the importance of good nutrition – something that has already made a meaningful impact on his own life.
“I’ve come a long way since I was overweight and prediabetic,” said Escolin. “People can change. I feel like I am an example of that. It’s never too late to make changes.”