Nutrition Science
       FoodMASTER receives $650,000 to support food, math, and science initiatives

The FoodMASTER (Food, Math, and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource) initiative is on a mission to help our nation’s kids use math and science in ways that are fun, engaging, and relevant to their daily lives. Under the direction of Melani Duffrin, PhD, RD, LDN, associate professor of Nutrition Science, FoodMASTER was developed in 2003 as a 45-lesson curriculum for third- through fifth-grade students to help increase math and science skills through food preparation and handling.

This year, the FoodMASTER initiative received a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institute for Health in the amount of $504,000 to help researchers collect data on the impact of multi-media FoodMASTER materials and gather information about the best way to disseminate the curriculum and materials. Dr. Duffrin is assisted by Dr. David Rivera, assistant professor of Hospitality Leadership; Dr. Michael J. Bossé, mathematics education coordinator; Virginia Carraway-Stage, RD, associate director of FoodMASTER in North Carolina; and Jana Hovland, RD, associate director of FoodMASTER for Ohio.

The researchers have written a hands-on activity book entitled FoodMASTER: Using Food to Teach Math and Science Skills, and they will test the activity book along with computer aided activities this fall with the help of 20 fourth grade teachers throughout North Carolina and Ohio. The teachers will implement activities in the classroom and report back to the researchers. The researchers also recruited another 100 intermediate grades teachers from across the nation to assess the materials and offer their input.

“Children love anything to do with food and food preparation. We’ve been watching enthusiastic young students engage in scientific processes such as measurement, data collection, critical thinking, and comparative analysis in very natural, self-directed ways, and it’s exciting,” said Dr. Duffrin. “We currently have a data base of 177 intermediate grades teachers in 32 states who are interested in receiving program materials when they are finalized. Teachers are hungry for math and science exercises that are concrete and learner driven.” Learn more at

Dr. Duffrin and colleagues, Nancy Harris and Sue Reichelt, also received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a Higher Education Grant Challenge Award of $150,000 to produce and improve teacher and professional training in foods and agricultural sciences. The project will offer an on-campus gate-way foods course to both nutrition students and family and consumer sciences education students, and it will provide a capstone, community-based service learning course for senior nutrition students and family and consumer sciences education students offering practical experience working in the community. Nancy Harris, MS, RD, clinical nutrition instructor, will be the primary instructor for the senior level-course capstone course.

The project will also offer an online distance education gate-way foods course open to all students. “We’re hoping the online foods course will become popular with high school family and consumer science (FACS) teachers,” said Sue Reichelt, PhD, associate professor of FACS education. “With teachers better prepared to teach food science linking agriculture and biotechnology, high school students will also be better prepared to pursue food related professions in teaching, agriculture, and biotechnology.”

Media Contact:
Peggy Novotny, Ph. 252-328-2882,

Academic Contacts:
Melani Duffrin, PhD, RD, LDN, Ph. 252-328-5698,
Virginia Carraway-Stage, MS, RD, LDN, Ph. 252-737-2473,


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