Erin McDermott, Intern at the Nutrition and Health Foundation
This summer, Erin McDermott, a delightful member of the Stint crew, arrived just before the weekend of one of our weekend excursions, a surfing trip to Co. Sligo, where she tore up the waves. From pints at the Bernard Shaw to dinners at Bewley’s, we enjoyed every moment we had with her.
Erin is a graduate student studying at Arcadia University in Pennsylvannia. She interned at the Nutrition and Health Foundation in Dublin this summer. Alas, the summer passed by too quickly…
We miss you, Erin!
Recently, I caught up with her for a conversation about her time in Ireland. Here it is:
Jeffrey S: So, why Ireland?
Erin M: It was somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. And being Irish, I wanted to explore where my family came from.
JS: Was this your first time visiting Ireland?
EM: Yes, it was, and I loved it!
JS: What was you impression of Ireland before you came?
EM: I knew that it was a beautiful country and that everyone is really friendly. I also knew Ireland is easy to travel around and see in my free time. It looked like an amazing country to visit.
JS: When you arrived in Dublin, what were your first thoughts?
EM: I thought it was a great city, lots of people, and easily accessible. I loved it right from the start.
JS: What was your favorite thing about the city? What made it great?
EM: My favorite thing about the city was all the festivals they had going on. The festivals made it easy for us to do something on the weekends and get involved with Dublin life. They also provided me the opportunity to see different parts of Dublin and interact with people I would not have met otherwise.
The environment that Dublin provided was what made it great. It’s hard to explain, but just the feel of the city made it a great experience. There was always something to do and see. Also the people were pretty amazing. Super friendly and always willing to have a conversation with you.
JS: Which festivals were you able to check out? Which neighborhood in Dublin is your favorite?
EM: I don’t remember the name but we went to one in Merrion Square Park. Portobello is my favorite!
JS: City Spectacular? Portobello!!!!
EM: Yes, City Spectacular. Duh!
JS: And what about your favorite spot in all of Dublin?
EM: Gosh, that’s hard. Probably Stephen’s Green.
JS: Whoops, I meant all of Ireland!
EM: That has to be Dingle. Its amazing there.
JS: Ooohh, did you see the Dingle Dolphin?
EM: Yes, and we drove along the peninsula.
JS: Amazing. Ireland in three words. Go.
EM: Beautiful, Incredible. Busy.
JS: Give us a brief description of your internship this summer.
EM: I worked for the Nutrition and Health Foundation, which is a part of Ibec. I reviewed the UK’s Traffic Light Labelling system and how it works on food labels. I calculated nutrient intakes vs traffic light labelling and portion sizes. The outcome was to see if the TLL works better on the front of a pack compared to the back. Also to see if if influences shoppers to buy a healthier item.
I also helped with various seminars that happened through out the summer.
JS: So what was the verdict? Does the TLL work better on the front or back? And does it influence shoppers?
EM: It definitely works better on the front of the pack because it allows shoppers to be able to see what the ingredients are quickly without having to search. But it does not influence shoppers to buy a healthy item, it just helps them become better informed.
JS: Hmmmm. Interesting. Is there a similar system in place in the USA?
EM: No, there’s not. It has not been put to use in the UK because they do not believe that it will be successful. There are plans to have it in the US but not yet. Hopefully in the future it will be.
JS: I see. Did you find any differences in the workplace in Ireland compared to the USA? Or even just Irishisms vs. Americanisms in general?
EM: It is definitely more relaxed when it comes to the work place. Yes, they get their work done, but it is at a non-stressful level. It helped me to focus on my quality of work instead of quantity.
Drinking at 1pm is not frowned upon.
JS: Cool! I’ll have to talk to Mel about introducing that into the Stint office.
EM: Go for it!
JS: In fact, alcohol can increase creativity. It’s science.
EM: Very true…
JS: So how does your experience in Ireland fit into the grand scheme of Erin’s career?
EM: It gave me the international experience that I was looking for, not only with work but personally as well. It provided me with amazing self confience and experiences that were life changing.
JS: And what are your goals and aspirations at this moment for your career?
EM: I really want to work with the government in relation to food. Whether it be obesity, food insecurity, food stamp programs, etc.
JS: Cool, and what sort of role would you have, ideally?
EM: It depends, I could implement programs, educate the community, do research…
JS: What got you interested in food originally?
EM: I have always had an interest in obesity and that just led me to food and mostly having access to healthy food.
JS: So there’s a huge obesity problem in the USA right now. If you’re named Dictator of Food tomorrow, how would you combat this problem?
EM: I would start with vending machines in schools. They would be taken out and restocked with all healthy items. I would then tackle portion sizes in restaurants, they are far to big for most people to eat
JS: Sounds good. I’ll call up my friend Barack and let him know I found him a Dictator of Food. Speaking of food, what was your favorite restaurant in Dublin?
EM: Thanks. The Church.
JS: And dish?
EM: The spinach tortellini.
JS: Mmmm… making me hungry.
EM: It’s awesome.
JS: Alright, so I think I’ve taken enough of your time so last question.
JS: When are you coming back to Ireland!?!?!
EM: Ah! Not soon enough. Hopefully next year!
JS: Cool beans. Pleasure talking to you!
EM: You too!