OSU dietetics students teach middle schoolers about healthy eating

Dietetics student Amber Richmond explains the components of a healthy breakfast to a table of North Albany Middle School students. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

ALBANY, Ore. – With almost every hand shooting up in the air in front of them, it was hard for Oregon State University dietetics students to decide which eager sixth grader to call upon as they guest-taught a North Albany Middle School class Friday morning. The women came armed with boxes of raisins to bribe students into participating in their class demonstrations, but they never had to dig into their stash, because the kids were more than ready to jump in and help.

“They didn’t even need the incentives,” Renee Faville said with surprise.

Students in Jenny Vannoy’s Communications in Dietetics course put their expertise in nutrition to the test when they crafted lesson plans tailored for middle school students. They spent several days at North Albany Middle School delivering lessons on topics ranging from healthy breakfasts to portion sizes to being physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. They were working with the Oregon Dairy Council to bring lively discussions about healthy eating to the middle schoolers.

Students scramble to assemble the perfect breakfast, with help from OSU student Erin Dooher. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

“This project partnership allowed an opportunity for OSU dietetics students to apply their nutrition education knowledge and skills in the real world,” Vannoy said. “What better way for them to learn and provide community service than by teaching young people about healthy eating and activity behaviors?  We’re excited to participate in North Albany Middle School’s efforts to improve their food and physical activity environment.”

Cara Seger, who works as Oregon Field Manager for the National Dairy Council’s “Fuel Up to Play 60” program, said the Oregon Dairy Council wanted to build up its partnerships with Oregon State University and with local schools, and held a contest in the Albany School District to select a school to participate in the program. North Albany Middle School was selected to participate.

“We thought it was a great fit with the school’s wellness program,” Seger said.

Tish Bottaro is an OSU alum and a teacher at North Albany Middle School. Her background is physical education, and she was thrilled to turn to her alma mater for support in providing students with the nutritional aspects of healthy living.

“It’s awesome and it’s such a good collaboration,” she said.

Back inside the classroom, OSU student Erin Dooher was warming the students up with an introduction to eating a healthy breakfast.

From left, Renee Faville, Amber Richmond, Erin Dooher and Elke Schleiss discuss how to eat a healthy breakfast with a class full of North Albany middle schoolers. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

“I have a fun little activity that is not scary at all,” she said, as hands shot up around the classroom to participate.

The OSU students weren’t sure how much the sixth graders would know about a balanced breakfast, but it turns out, the kids readily discussed whole grains and carbohydrates like nutrition experts.

Although the sixth graders clearly enjoyed their time with their OSU teachers, the lessons didn’t end when the university students departed. The sixth graders are now expected to launch their own nutrition and physical activity education campaigns within their school, and because of their participation in the program, they’re now eligible for a $3,000 grant to use toward supporting health and wellness at their school.

“These messages will extend well beyond the walls of the classroom,” Seger said.

~ Theresa Hogue

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