Read more about our current featured member below. For previous Member Spotlight editions, head over to the archive.
Leia Flure, MS, RD, LDN
Tell us about your job.
I coordinate marketing and communications for a school nutrition training grant, which is a partnership between University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois State Board of Education. Extension staff around the state help schools improve their nutrition programs by recommending environmental changes to improve the dining experience, taste testing potential menu additions, conducting tray waste studies, providing training to meet the USDA Professional Standards requirements for schools participating in Child Nutrition Programs, and more. My role is to document and share the great work that we’re doing in Illinois through marketing pieces (e-newsletters, social media, blog, etc.) and develop online training courses to complement the in-person work being done in the field.
On the side, I consult with Bayer CropScience as part of their L.E.A.D. (Leaders Engaged in Advancing the Dialogue) Network, which includes providing outreach and promoting science-based information on modern agriculture to consumers and other registered dietitians. I do a large part of this through my Moderation Maven social media pages and blog.
What do you find most interesting about your job?
It is really fun to see the creative ways that schools are marking meals trendy and appealing while providing great nutrition. I also love the research portion of my job – being part of Extension, we continuously evaluate our programs and share our findings. Right now, we are working on a manuscript about professional development needs among school nutrition employees. We’re also working on evaluating the impact of environmental interventions (e.g., giving foods creative names, adding attractive signage, etc.) on selection and consumption of school meals.
As part of Bayer’s L.E.A.D. Network, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to get in-depth continuing education that helps me better answer people’s questions. For example, I participated in an immersion experience focused on sustainability in agriculture. Over three days, we visited both conventional and organic farms and learned about pesticides, bee health, waste prevention, and more.
How did you get into this field?
I pursued dietetics as a career after losing a significant amount of weight during college by improving my eating habits and moving more. I knew that if I could do it, I wanted to help others do the same. I was already in the process of finishing up my undergraduate program in psychology and thought that it would be a great complement to nutrition, so I went for it. Luckily I’ve always liked physical science, so I wasn’t derailed by all the chemistry!
Where were you born and raised?
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, about an hour northwest of the city. Given the choice of the Cubs over the White Sox, I would go for the White Sox. I am a fan of all Chicago sports teams, though!
Where did you go to college and/or complete and internship?
I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for both my undergraduate (B.S., Psychology) and graduate (M.S., Nutritional Sciences) degrees. I completed my dietetics coursework while working on my Master’s degree, which was certainly a challenge but worth it. After graduating, I completed my dietetic internship through the University of Houston. It was fun to get away from the Midwest for a while and I made some great friends during that time.
Besides your profession, what are your hobbies?
I keep active by training for long distance races. I’ve completed four half marathons and countless 5Ks and 10Ks. I’m training for my first full marathon now to check that off the bucket list! I love reading but it can be challenging to find time to sit down with an active toddler in the house, so I listen to audiobooks while doing chores, driving in the car, whenever I can squeeze it in!
What are your favorite foods?
Chicago-style deep dish pizza with extra tomato sauce, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and nectarines.
What is on your bucket list?
Traveling more is definitely in my future plans. My husband and I want to go on an Alaskan cruise! I’d also love to visit Hawaii, the UK, and Australia. Writing a book is on my bucket list, but I’m not sure what it will be about yet! Also, skydiving.
How long have you been a member of NEP DPG? And why did you join?
I joined NEP in 2013. It was recommended to me by my wonderful mentor, Karen Chapman-Novakofski. I've been involved on the leadership team from the start as the website coordinator and now also secretary. NEP is a wonderful resource for finding educational materials, networking, and getting support from colleagues.
Any other interesting things you would like to share with NEP members.
I have many interests in nutrition! In the past I have worked as an Extension Educator and covered many different program areas – food safety, food preservation, healthy cooking, chronic disease management, and more. I’ve taught undergraduate Agricultural Communications courses and I’ve worked as an outpatient oncology dietitian. I love doing live TV segments and appear monthly on our local CBS station for cooking segments and interviews on food and nutrition topics.