ECU to train food literacy volunteers
(May 25, 2004)
Dismayed by a trend towards bad nutrition in her own family and community, East Carolina University art professor Alice Arnold wondered how to help.
The solution emerged through Food Literacy Partners, a free, 20-hour course funded through a grant from the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation. The program focuses on food and nutritional well being of people in eastern North Carolina. Topics include weight management, dietary supplements and information about diseases often associated with obesity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
"There are a lot of people walking around with a piece missing," Arnold said. "And that piece is nutrition."
Like Arnold, many volunteers take the class because they are interested in helping those around them. Class participants are required to volunteer at least 20 hours of nutritional information service to the community in locations such as school classrooms, cafeterias, farmer's markets, church or service club meetings. For most participants, however, the requirement represents a small slice of the efforts they make to inform their friends, family and the community about nutrition. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from the class, they have the proper tools to spread the right information about this growing problem.
Sally Lawrence, an English professor who took the course this spring, uses her newly reinforced nutritional knowledge in the classroom to help students with their health as well as with some of the nutrition projects she assigns to students in her science-writing course. Lawrence said portion- size is a subject that gets reinforcement in her class. "Students were shocked by how much sugar there is in a 20-ounce bottle of soda," she said.
Dance professor Dawn Clark, who also took the spring course, regularly sees malnutrition in her students in the School of Theater and Dance.
"With dancers, underweight and under-nutrition are some of the most prominent concerns," Clark said. "And of course that affects their overall performance."
Clark said the class has allowed her to grow as a nutrition advocate. "If nutrition questions come up, I feel informed." Robin High, nutrition director for Campus Dining Services, said the volunteers are an important link in strengthening nutritional health.
"It's going to take a community to change these issues," she said. "It's not just the responsibility of the school. It's not just the responsibility of the parents or the restaurants. It's the whole community."