Current Research and Outreach Projects
This research will investigate whether the same type of physical environment needed to promote improved dietary behaviors in families and children will also be effective in older adults. Information gathered will assist nutrition professionals in designing interventions for older adults emphasizing the need for fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet and based on factors relevant to them. Results will also be used to design community-wide food and environmental policies.
Good nutrition is important for growing children. Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables at an early age is the best way to develop healthy eating habits that will last for a lifetime. However, young children are at a greater risk for food borne illness if fresh produce is not handled properly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plant based food products were responsible for approximately 46% of all foodborne illnesses from 1998 – 2008. Through a USDA NIFA grant, the project investigators identified the produce-handling practices, attitudes, and knowledge of early childcare educators and foodservice staff in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Nearly half the centers assessed used some combination of farm visits, planting gardens, serving local produce, holding taste tests or conducting nutrition education. Only 63%, however, reported that children always wash hands after picking garden foods; and only 50% used clean containers to harvest fruits and vegetables. These results were used to develop and implement a food safety curriculum in two formats: an interactive online program as well as in-person workshops.
This research will examine the links between food practices in the Cambodian-American community and health risks among pregnant and post-partum Cambodian women in the United States. More than half of all Cambodian Americans live below the poverty line and a significant number are at high risk for food insecurity and hunger.
This research will address cultural tailoring of nutrition education programs intended to improve food security and nutrition of diverse cultures. It will further investigate cultural and ethnic differences in the language that is used to describe food security and the responses to household constraints that affect food purchasing. Finally, it will implement and evaluate a nutrition education program with a multicultural group of low-income Massachusetts residents.