Using the science of nutrition, the technology of computers,
and a passion for service, Jeanne Petrucci ’86 built a unique business that fulfills an unmet need among healthcare professionals.
By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, Fall 2023
It all started when Jeanne Petrucci ’86 walked into the dean’s office at Moravian University and asked to construct an academic plan to support her intended occupation, which at the time was in cosmetics. Petrucci pushed for an interdepartmental major to merge business and science into the science of cosmetics. That major landed her a dream job as an executive at Estée Lauder in New York City immediately after graduating from Moravian.
Nearly four decades later, Petrucci is still building on that educational foundation as founder and CEO of Living Plate RX, a successful business that supplies nutrition educators and healthcare practitioners with the tools they need to maximize patient support with a prescribed eating plan.
Food as Medicine
When Petrucci married and had children, she needed a more flexible career that cultivated her interests. “I’ve always been fascinated with food as it relates to health,” she says, “so I started working as a community-based cooking instructor partnering with local nonprofits.” She developed a special relationship with Cancer Support Community, the largest network of mental health care professionals in the field of oncology.
“The patients from Cancer Support Community wanted to know how the food we were preparing was impacting their health,” she says. “I knew I shouldn’t be answering those questions until I had a better understanding of the science of nutrition.” So she began the journey of earning her master’s degree in nutrition education at Columbia University and becoming a registered dietitian (RD).
To simply hand someone a list of foods based on their diagnosis isn’t helpful. They need to know what to do with those foods.”
—Jeanne Petrucci ’86
Tools for Behavior Change
Armed with her degree and the knowledge necessary to answer nutrition science questions, Petrucci opened her own teaching kitchen and surrounded herself with experienced professionals. “Three months in, however, it became clear to me that there were no resources to help me support my community,” she says. So, just as she had constructed an interdepartmental major at Moravian, she got to work creating the necessary resources herself.
“I developed presentations, e-books, meal plans, cooking videos, and handouts and used it all in my community,” she says. And she made sure those resources were effective. “To simply hand someone a list of foods based on their diagnosis isn’t helpful,” she says. “They need to know what to do with those foods.”
As a result of those resources, her practice exploded. “Doctors started referring patients to us, saying, ‘Jeanne and her team don’t just provide counseling; they give tools for behavior change.’ ”
There was such a demand, in fact, that she decided to take all the content, put it in an online library, and offer subscriptions to other registered dietitians. “In less than a week, we sold out of our Founding Member memberships. Then I knew, ‘Okay, we have something,’ ” she says. Living Plate Rx was born.
Today, the business is booming, with a vast library of resources that is constantly updated by a team of registered dietitians who specialize in the areas of the content they create. Petrucci also hired a software development company to build a customizable digital meal-planning platform. Living Plate Rx continues to grow, and the company recently brought on an operating partner to further scale the business. “It’s a very exciting time,” Petrucci says.
As Petrucci looks ahead to the future, she says she never forgets how she got here. “I’m so thankful to Moravian for giving me the support and flexibility to create an interdisciplinary major, which set the stage for the rest of my career. Because I was able to handpick my courses and curate my path, there wasn’t a class I didn’t run to.”
Petrucci encourages current Moravian students and young professionals to focus on service and to fulfill unmet needs as she has done. “If your career and mission are built on serving people and solving their problems, you will ultimately find success.”
Coping with Cancer in the Kitchen
With a drive to help, early in her career, Jeanne Petrucci ’86 started serving people whose lives have been touched by cancer. As part of her master’s thesis, she wrote an eight-module intervention program for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) called “Coping with Cancer in the Kitchen.” Five years ago, Petrucci and AICR partnered to conduct a pilot study, which was so successful that the AICR funded a second randomized control trial. “What we are looking at is whether or not people who have been touched by cancer who participate in culinary nutrition-based intervention have better outcomes than people who participate in nutrition education interventions alone [without the culinary piece],” she says. The studies confirmed the belief on which she has based her entire business model: Giving people a list of foods alone isn’t helpful; you must address their culinary confidence as well and give them supportive resources.
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