Education and Outreach

Committee focus: developing nutrition curriculum for all students

The Moore Institute believes children and adolescents play an integral role in shaping the future health of our communities. That's why we've been working to develop and promote nutrition education curriculum for the youngest students to the oldest.

Our collective cultural knowledge and traditions surrounding food have changed dramatically over the past few decades. This has occurred in tandem with increasingly fast-paced and pressure-filled lives, constant digital distractions and far less physical activity. The food product industry has been quick to answer with fast and processed foods, and meals that can be put together in mere minutes. The resulting health impacts surround our communities in the form of epidemic rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Children don't yet have fixed habits, attitudes and food tastes. They are open to learning new ideas about how the world could work. And, they are the community leaders and parents of the next generation. Surrounding them with the knowledge of the importance of nutritious food throughout life, and its role within our economy and ecosystem will help improve the overall health of our communities.

The Moore Institute mission is put into action by the work of its committees. One of the first to form, the Education and Outreach Committee, has been working for four years to reach children and young adults in school-based settings to frame their understanding and knowledge of food and nutrition. Susan Bagby, M.D., an advocate for the effects of nutrition on lifelong health for more than 20 years has chaired the committee since its inception.

To accomplish the considerable task of creating and implementing nutrition-based curriculum across the education spectrum, Dr. Bagby works with a team of dedicated volunteers. Their first project was to identify existing nutrition curriculum resources and then to create new ones where they didn't exist. The goal is to provide these resources at no or low cost to schools and communities.

The committee first identified the "How to Teach Nutrition to Kids" elementary curriculum kit, put together by Portland-based dietician Connie Evers, R.D.N. Recognizing the quality of this inexpensive and engaging curriculum, the committee worked to develop a systematic dissemination plan to make the curriculum available to Oregon primary schools and youth programs. This has included working with health-career graduate students to provide demonstrations of the curriculum for collegiate teachers-to-be and active teachers, as well as a webinar that explains the curriculum and its uses.

Their next project was to develop materials for middle school students based on the self-contained "In a Box" curriculum design. Nutrition in a Box, an enrichment curriculum, targets students in fourth through eighth grades. The modular, interactive stations engage kids in hand-on activities and real-life applications of food knowledge, like identifying foods, following recipes and reading labels. The curriculum will be rolled out during the 2017-18 school year.

Reaching college students with the message of nutrition's role in lifelong and community health is key as they are developing eating and cooking habits that will influence their own health and that of their future children. The committee has been working with George Fox University –through its Nutrition Matters program - to develop enrichment curriculum that brings not only basic nutrition concepts, but shares the science of early-life nutritional programming and its impact on future health. Entitled "Better the Future: Building Human Resilience", this modular unit will provide a basic introductory unit, supplemented with more in-depth specialized units for a deeper dive into the science.

In addition, the committee is collaborating with Portland Community College to provide an annual half-day conference for students, faculty, and interested public. The first event was held this winter at the PCC Rock Creek campus with presenters from the Moore Institute. Plans are to host the event again in the fall with PCC faculty presenters.

Looking forward, Dr. Bagby hopes to focus the committee's efforts on continuing to develop resources and advocate for the inclusion of nutrition curriculum at all educational levels. The committee is also in the process of developing evaluation methods to understand the impact of their work in students over time.

If you are interested in being part of the Education and Outreach Committee, or would like to know more about any of their projects, send us an email and let us know.