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USDA supports FoodMASTER project

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Nov. 20, 2008)   —   The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $150,000 Higher Education Challenge Grant to an East Carolina University project that will use food and agriculture to help college students learn math, science and nutrition concepts.

ECU’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Department of Child Development and Family Relations received the grant, which will support a higher education component of the FoodMASTER initiative.

This is the second grant awarded to the FoodMASTER program this fall. Last month, the project received a $504,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the development and distribution of a K-12 curriculum

FoodMASTER is an interactive, food-based curricula designed for students in kindergarten through college. It is based on the premise that children and adults interact with food every day and, without realizing it, are exposed to mathematical and scientific concepts each time they prepare food, making food an exceptional teaching tool.

With the USDA grant, ECU researchers will develop college courses that use food to engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning and service learning to synthesize math, science and nutrition concepts and better understand the nature of living systems and the promotion of healthy living.

The project will offer an on-campus, gateway foods course to nutrition students and family and consumer sciences education students. It will also offer an online gateway foods course open to all. Seniors in nutrition and family and consumer sciences will complete a capstone, community-based, service-learning course to gain practical experience working in the community.

“The gateway food science course will offer an inquiry-based approach to teaching food science,” said Virginia Carraway-Stage, registered dietitian and the project’s coordinator. “We are developing video modules around farmers’ markets, lab kitchen demonstrations and grocery store experiences and will feature chefs and food experts. The College of Human Ecology’s newly-renovated lab kitchen will take center stage in our classes, but all of our food demonstrations must be reproducible for online students using their own kitchens as labs.”

“We’re hoping the online foods course will become popular with high school family and consumer sciences teachers,” said Sue Reichelt, ECU faculty member and the project’s expert in family and consumer sciences education. “With teachers better prepared to teach food science linking agriculture and biotechnology, high school students also will be better prepared to pursue food-related professions in teaching, agriculture, and biotechnology. FoodMASTER curricula actually have implications for all K-12 math, science, foods and health teachers.”

Melani Duffrin, ECU nutrition and dietetics faculty member, will supervise the implementation of the project, develop multimedia materials and teach the sophomore-level food sciences courses. Nancy Harris, ECU nutrition and dietetics faculty member, will be the primary instructor for the senior-level course.

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Contact: Peggy Novotny | 252-328-2882