SUNY Oswego’s registered dietitian Kathryn Szklany recently earned a statewide honor from the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with the Isabelle A. Hallahan Award. 

The award, given out to one female registered dietitian in New York each year in honor of its namesake, recognizes exceptional work in food service by trained professionals. 

“A handful of dietitians that I see as leaders in the field have received the award in the past,” said Szklany, who has worked in the position for Auxiliary Services at Oswego since 2017. “So to have my name alongside them is definitely something I’m proud of and honored to be a part of.” 

The award’s namesake, Isabelle Hallahan, was a prominent dietitian who had many jobs and titles in the industry in the 1970s and 1980s. One of her major roles was as the director of dining halls at Hofstra University, where she performed similar duties to those Szklany serves at Oswego. 

Dan Siddons, SUNY Oswego’s director of resident dining, applauded Szklany’s work and handling of many responsibilities. 

“I don’t know what I would do without her,” said Siddons. “She coordinates all of our menus, and even in that, works to make sure that dietary restrictions and any allergen concerns are addressed. She makes sure that they’re bringing in vegetarian options as well as gluten free options.” 

Connecting with concerns

Szklany expressed a special appreciation for handling dietary restrictions, an appreciation she said she owes to her own struggles with certain foods. 

“I have celiac disease, so I have a lot of food intolerance issues,” said Szklany. “When I sit down with students, and they have severe dietary needs or allergies, not only do I have the education and the knowledge of a dietitian, but I get it because I literally have to eat gluten free.” 

Another factor that makes Szklany especially passionate about her work as a dietitian is being a mother, which she said helps her better understand parents’ concerns about their children’s diets at Oswego. Parents of students with allergies can be particularly concerned and even fearful, so Szklany works hard to ensure they will take care of these needs.

“Now that I have two young children, sometimes I feel like parents get emotional, and I feel it because I can put myself in their shoes,” said Szklany.

Szklany also previously worked as a clinical dietitian, helping to maintain and nourish hospital patients in Syracuse. She said that while she enjoyed that experience, the variety provided by her role at Oswego has been very rewarding.

“As a clinical dietitian, you work in the ICU,” where the situation can be more dire on a daily basis, said Szklany. “Whereas part of my day is spent writing the menu, part of my day is looking at recipes, part of my day is meeting with students that have an allergy, part of my day is educating our staff on food allergies, part of my day might be working with rec services doing a program. I get to do so many different things that it keeps me feeling fresh.”

Siddons said that Szklany’s role at Oswego is becoming increasingly relevant as students, faculty and staff all learn more about and focus more intently on nutrition and diet.

“We have seen and I’m sure Kathryn would tell you this, a significant increase in students with allergy concerns or dietary concerns,” said Siddons. “It went from just being a handful of students each semester to hundreds of students each semester. And so her job has taken on much more importance.” 

Szklany expressed her satisfaction with the work she has put in to make Oswego’s menu more diverse and accommodating for students with all sorts of dietary restrictions, whether they be medical, religious or just preference. 

“Now, we still can improve,” said Szklany. “But it’s actually a big improvement from where we were before, so it’s definitely something I’m proud of.” 

-- Written by Collin Knapp of the Class of 2023