Erin Taylor, a senior Food Science major, attained an internship with McEntire Produce this past summer. She worked mainly on aspects of quality assurance and food safety as well as a special project regarding the microbiology of onions. We asked Erin a few questions about her experience and what she took away from it.
How did you choose your major?
After developing a personal interest in health and fitness throughout high school, I knew I wanted to work in healthcare. Reading through the four-year curriculum for the Food Science program was a “light bulb” moment. Dietetics allows for one-on-one client interactions and the chance to make a real, measurable impact on individuals’ health.
How did you attain the internship you had?
Mrs. Paula Beecher sent an email out to CAFLS students about an internship opportunity at McEntire Produce. This internship offered an opportunity to work in the Quality Assurance and Food Safety departments at a large-scale produce processing plant. I submitted my resume and was offered the position after a phone interview.
What is the biggest lesson you took away from your internship?
I gained respect for the food processing industry. It requires attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The work is labor-intensive and often not in ideal conditions—the McEntire Produce plant is kept at 33°F! The amount of work that goes into ensuring a safe and high quality product is astounding; so many people contribute to the sliced tomato on a hamburger or the chopped romaine in a salad—every person’s expertise is crucial.
What is your dream job?
I want to be Registered Dietitian and work in outpatient care. In the spring, I will seek a dietetic internship. After that, I will take an exam to become a Registered Dietitian. I hope to then seek a clinical position in outpatient care. I also plan to pursue a Master’s degree after gaining a few years of work experience.
Who in your field do you admire?
I admire Dr. Beth Kunkel and her work with sustainability and slow food. Slow food is a movement emphasizing local, fresh food that is produced respectfully to the environment. Dr. Kunkel is an advisor for the Slow Food Club at Clemson and she teaches a Creative Inquiry. I participated in this CI last year; we planted vegetables significant to SC and cooked them in a traditional manner. We also worked to develop a pickup for the Clemson Area Food Exchange (CAFE). Students and faculty can purchase locally grown goods on the CAFE website and pick up their orders weekly. I admire her for working with these organizations and creating opportunities for students to become closer to their food.
What is something you are passionate about outside of the classroom?
I work with the Paw Pantry, a student-led initiative to develop a food pantry on Clemson’s campus. The pantry provides non-perishable food and basic hygiene items to Clemson students in need. Food insecurity is a silent but significant problem on college campuses. As students, we see so much excess in dining halls and restaurants that we may not realize that some of our peers struggle to obtain meals regularly.
Any advice to current or prospective students?
For dietetic students specifically, do some research and understand exactly what is required to become a Registered Dietitian. Learn about different dietetic internships, applicant expectations, and costs. Don’t let the application process deter you! I would emphasize that college is the best time in your life to be curious and ask questions. Take advantage of your professors’ wealth of knowledge while you are on campus!
This has been edited for length and clarity.