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This Utah dietitian won a national award for solving the ‘What’s for Dinner?’ dilemma

Logan resident and co-founder of Citrus Pear — a meal-preparation business — named 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Registered Dietician and Founder of Citrus Pear McKenzie Rockwood, of Logan, pours ingredients into a bag during a Citrus Pear in-person food preparation class at Bowman’s Market in Kaysville on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Rockwood was recently declared the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

North Salt Lake • In the dining area of a local grocery store, the furniture has been cleared to make room for a semicircle of folding tables covered in tan butcher paper.

Twelve workstations are placed around the tables, each with a set of colorful cooking utensils, a conveniently-placed trash can, and a neatly-folded apron emblazoned with the words “Citrus Pear.”

While its name may sound like a perfume or a rare fruit, Citrus Pear is a meal assembly business that aims to “make healthy eating easy,” said co-founder McKenzie Rockwood.

In a minute, this well-lit room will be the site for one of her in-person classes. Students will chop and mix ingredients that Rockwood has purchased in advance, then assemble them into take-home dinners. These dinners can be stored in the freezer and enjoyed on nights when life gets hectic.

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This evening a group of friends, relatives, and co-workers are attending a private session, where the menu has been tailored to fit the preferences of the group.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) A Citrus Pear in-person food preparation class was held at Bowman’s Market in Kaysville on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Registered Dietician and Founder of Citrus Pear McKenzie Rockwood, of Logan, was recently declared the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) A prepared coconut chicken curry meal is sealed before being placed in a cooler during a Citrus Pear in-person food preparation class at Bowman’s Market in Kaysville on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Registered Dietician and Founder of Citrus Pear McKenzie Rockwood, of Logan, was recently declared the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Pam Lewis, left, of Layton, and Jenn Littrell, right, of Uintah, lean away from each other so that they don’t accidentally spray lemon juice at each other during a Citrus Pear in-person food preparation class at Bowman’s Market in Kaysville on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Registered Dietician and Founder of Citrus Pear McKenzie Rockwood, of Logan, was recently declared the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

Through her work at Citrus Pear, Rockwood, a Logan resident and Utah State University graduate, earned the 2021 Young Dietician of the Year award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This national group is the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world. Its Young Dietician award honors up-and-coming dietitians, 35 and younger, who exhibit outstanding leadership and service.

Rockwood, who spent six years as an inpatient Registered Dietician Nutritionist at Logan Regional Hospital, understands that good nutrition can be tricky. There is often little support for individuals who have been put on special diets by their physicians, she said, noting that Citrus Pear has more than 30 registered dietitians on its staff who can modify meals for special diets.

“We had a mom come to us whose son had been diagnosed with epilepsy — one treatment for epilepsy is to follow a ketogenic diet,” Rockwood said. “Our dieticians tailored a whole menu with twenty meals that were safe for her son.”

During a typical two-hour class, like one held recently at Lee’s Marketplace in North Salt Lake, customers assemble 10 freezer-ready meals filled with vegetables and protein. On this particular night, the options include garlic parmesan chicken and honey lime ginger pork.

Nutrition facts and a QR code with preparation instructions are printed on the side of each meal container.

Citrus Pear — a name selected for its “fresh and healthy” sound — started out as a side job while Rockwood worked at the hospital.

“I did two back-to-back classes that first day and it was so much work,” she said. “I did all the grocery shopping and the prep and trimmed the meat myself. It took me a full week to prepare and during that time, I wasn’t at the hospital. I was getting my shifts covered.”

However, Rockwood’s hard work paid off.

After completing her first few classes, she said, “Everyone was proud of their efforts and had confidence that they were going home with good quality, healthy meals.”

As demand for Rockwood’s nutrition expertise increased, Citrus Pear became a full-time commitment. In 2016, she left her job at the hospital to focus on her growing business. Three years later, her husband, Mace Rockwood, also joined the company full-time.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Ada Rivera, of Layton, adds red peppers to her fire roasted tomato and chipotle chili meal during a Citrus Pear in-person food preparation class at Bowman’s Market in Kaysville on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Registered Dietician and Founder of Citrus Pear McKenzie Rockwood, of Logan, was recently declared the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2021 Young Dietitian of the Year.

Preparing dinners in advance is a huge help for working parents, said first-time Citrus Pear attendee Andrea Nelson. She hadn’t sought out meal prep events in the past, but once work started occupying a larger portion of her schedule, Citrus Pear classes sounded “like a dream.”

Describing her Citrus Pear experience so far, Nelson said, “It’s fun. And it goes really fast.”

During the class, Rockwood and her assistants are in constant motion, ensuring that even the slowest of carrot choppers don’t get left behind. The sounds of clinking utensils, friendly banter, and tips for using temperamental can-openers fill the room.

Citrus Pear classes take place at 20 locations in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. The frequency varies based on location. Each class costs between $199 and $209 depending on the number and size of the meals customers purchase. Regular meal feeds 6-8 adults, while the small options feeds 3-4.

Citrus Pear dinners are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income Americans get food on the table. The website does not currently have a portal for SNAP signups, but SNAP recipients can email help@citruspeardinners.com to attend a subsidized class.

“A big part of Citrus Pear is the community,” says Rockwood, “and we want everyone to feel included. Everyone deserves to have healthy meals.”

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