Jordan Tierney is a junior at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). A nutrition major studying to be a dietitian, she agrees with Frank Gillespie, a registered dietitian and Manager of Training and Nutrition Services at Fresh Picks Café, that kids and college students have a lot to learn from each other.
Along with her friend and classmate, Hannah Gruelich, Jordan recently completed a spring semester internship with Fresh Picks Café at three elementary schools in the Dover, New Hampshire school district. Their job: Make nutrition and wellness education fun to help kids develop life-long, healthy eating and fitness habits.
To advance the district’s health and wellness requirements, Frank approached UNH Internship Coordinator, Lisa Corman, in spring 2014 to offer dietetics students opportunities to share their knowledge with school age kids while earning credit for field service. He hopes to expand the program to other New Hampshire school districts where Fresh Picks Café operates.
“I learned a lot about how to develop lesson plans and present information in ways that are interesting to kids,” says Jordan. “Working with elementary school kids was a valuable experience that fits my goal to become a pediatric dietitian.”
From January through early May, Jordan and Hannah spent up to four hours a week rotating between Garrison, Woodman Park and Horne Street elementary schools. They set up stations in the cafeteria at lunchtime where they engaged kids in talks, hands-on activities and tastings on age-appropriate nutrition and wellness topics. These included lessons on USDA-approved “Healthy Plates,” the difference between whole grains and white grains, and the benefits of daily exercise.
Studies show that students learn better when they use multiple senses. To help kids develop a taste for healthy foods, Jordan and Hannah offered students “Try Me Bites” of the monthly, Fresh Picks Café, “Farm Fresh Focus” menu feature. The bite-sized samples featured a variety of aromas, colors and textures in recipes such as Roasted Beet Salad, Citrus Quinoa Salad and Tri Color Cole Slaw.
Students were encouraged to touch, smell and taste the raw ingredients incorporated into recipes—a fun, and for some, surprising lesson on how to change the look, feel and flavor of food by preparing it in different ways.
Hannah is looking forward to applying what she learned during her internship at her job this summer working at a camp for diabetic children. “Lecturing didn’t go over so well,” she says. “But when we gave them food and let them touch plants and herbs, the kids were really engaged! ”