Family and Consumer Sciences faculty are actively engaged in applied research projects to inform educational programs and policies to enhance health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

Padres Preparados, Jovenes Saludables

The Padres Preparados, Jóvenes Saludables (Prepared Parents, Healthy Youth) is federally funded family-skills obesity prevention program for Latino immigrant fathers and their children. The program seeks to address energy balance related behaviors by:

1) increasing father's healthy parenting practices regarding healthy eating and physical activity

 2) improving eating and physical activity behaviors of 10-14 year-olds.

The program follows a Social Cognitive/Reciprocal determinism theoretical framework. The Project is led by Dr. Ali Hurtado, Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor. More information can be found here.

Food waste in the university setting and its implications towards a sustainable food system

Consumer plate waste has been identified as one of the largest sources of avoidable food waste. Little is known about plate waste quantities, production patterns and the hidden value behind this plate waste among college students, one of the most wasteful groups. Using food production records, this project aimed to estimate the quantities of plate waste, identify waste patterns by food category, and contextualize the nutrient loss.
For this observational, formative research, direct weighing was used to collect plate waste in a campus-dining hall at six intermittent days throughout one semester. Plate waste was collected from one UMD dining halls operating.
Foods offered in the highest quantities were starch and added sugars (35%), animal protein and fish (31%), and fruit and vegetables (19%). The food groups that were discarded in the highest quantities proportional to the amount available included starch and added sugar (14%), fruits and vegetable (14%) and whole grain (12%). This means that 14% of all starch and added sugar offered in the dining hall facility were thrown away. Each student meal generated 2.03 ounces of plate waste which represented a loss of 100 kcals, 1.1 grams of dietary fiber, 120 mg potassium, 0.8 mg iron and 33.5 µg folate.
Student plate waste in the university dining hall is a significant issue with enormous potential in food waste reduction strategies.

“Farm to Tray, Tray to Farm “ – Pilot trial in Caroline County, MD

High plate waste results in inadequate nutritional intake and increased environmental burden. We aimed to evaluate changes in waste at elementary school lunch following a mindful and sustainable eating (MSE) focused pilot intervention that encouraged reduced plate waste and increased produce intake. Farm to Tray, Tray to Farm (FTTF) is an intervention that aimed to encourage elementary school students to develop mindful and sustainable eating (MSE) behaviors to meet child nutrition goals while reducing plate waste at school lunch. The purpose of this project is to improve produce intake and reduce plate waste produced by elementary school students during lunch.

FTTF consists of the four strategies:

1) 16-week, mindfulness and ecoliterate curriculum: FTTF’s lessons were delivered to a group of eight Veggie Leaders (VLs). Lessons, adapted from published resources such as FoodSpan and Foodie U and tailored for target audience, emphasized interactive, hands-on learning.

2) Peer modeling: The VL’s main role is to model behaviors and act as leaders through dissemination activities. VLs prepared a variety of activities (e.g., mindful eating contests, educational artwork for the cafeteria, story writing for young students) to share study concepts with the school, which they promoted during morning announcements.

3) Cafeteria reinforcements: These were designed to emphasize available FV choices and reiterate key messages. These included placing a highly-visible FV menu at the cafeteria entrance, labeling foods on the tray line, and displaying a feedback board with rotating questions related to study lessons.

4) Expanded share table: Share tables/bins allow students to donate unwanted items and help reduce waste. Participating schools had small, underutilized bins; the intervention school’s was replaced with an attractive and organized table. In consultation with the school, recovered items were donated to after school programs. Intervention students exhibited positive dietary changes that were indicative of improved produce intake and waste patterns.

This program has potential to improve children’s healthy development and reduce environmental impact of plate waste in schools.

Terp Nutrition – A virtual nutrition education intervention for college students

College students often take part in unhealthy behaviors, such as consuming fast food, skipping meals, low intake of nutrient dense foods. Additionally, research shows that many college students have low nutrition knowledge and low skills in performing healthy behaviors. Nutrition education is an area that has been promoted among many populations in hopes of improving the food security status of all individuals. However, there are few studies that assess whether virtual nutrition education interventions have been successful among college students and young adults. The aim of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of a virtual nutrition education intervention tailored for young adults, cultivate the concept of a sustainable food system and improve food accessibility and food security among college students.

The team has developed six nutrition education modules relevant to college students and the nutrition education modules are available online and offered to participating students virtually. Each module will take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete.

The team is collaborating with UMD campus food pantry to make the modules available to entire UMD community. The project is just launched in April 2021 and we are collecting baseline data.

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