Dietetics students bring cooking classes to local children – Advice Eating

SUMMARY: JMU dietetics students partner with Explore More Discovery Museum, WHSV and Martin’s to share healthy cooking demonstrations with the community. Check out the recipes at the end of the article!

By: Morgan Vuknic
Creative Services Student Writer

Nutrition professors Michelle Hesse and Jennifer Walsh, and students in their junior and senior nutrition classes, have partnered with the Explore More Discovery Museum to educate kids about nutrition.

The idea for this collaboration originated in Hessen’s X-Labs classes, where a group of students created a prototype cooking video aimed at elementary and middle school children. The goal of this video was to develop solutions that support food security and teach children how to prepare nutritious meals using simple ingredients.

“This is a less risky way for students to practice how they will perform as professionals in the future,” said Dr. Michelle Hesse. “I love these more hands-on collaborations because they allow students to practice in a more structured way and improve their skills.” The project was further refined by dietetics students enrolled in the Community Nutrition and Scientific Preparation courses, where they created a nutrition curriculum that included cooking videos. Because the primary audience for these videos is children, Hesse said the Explore More Discovery Museum is the perfect place for her students to test the skills they’ve learned in a low-to-no pressure environment.

In addition to the children’s museum, the project also received help from WHSV and Martin’s, with WHSV helping film and editing the videos and Martin’s providing the ingredients. Hesse said this collaboration allows students to be more in touch with the local community.

“Students often live in this JMU bubble,” says Hesse. Working with the community allows them to recognize the needs of those around them. They are part of the Harrisonburg community and it is important that they understand how to enhance their knowledge and skills to support the needs of the community.”

Hesse said this opportunity allows students to learn more about nutrition and gain hands-on experience that will help them in their future careers. Hesse’s students design the food demonstrations and the students in the nutrition group class the nutrition lessons. She said these two aspects of working with the Children’s Museum allow her students to see the different ways nutrition can be taught.

“I think [this partnership] forces that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition,” Hesse said. “As nutritionists, we need to get creative and have the ability to be adaptable and flexible when working with diverse populations.”

While it’s important to be flexible when working with diverse populations, junior dietitian Kaitlyn Good said she’s learned it’s also important to be culturally sensitive.

Well said, working with the Children’s Museum has taught her to include different cultures in her nutrition classes. One example she gave was using white rice. She said brown rice is known to be more nutritious, but many cultures eat white rice exclusively and that can’t be ignored. For this reason, white rice must be included in this culture’s diet and can be part of a nutritious eating plan along with other healthy foods.

In addition to teaching kids to be culturally sensitive, Good hopes the lessons she and her classmates teach about nutrition really stay with the kids after they leave the Children’s Museum.

“I always think you lead by example,” Good said. “I feel like it means everything to me [the kids] that we come in and give them our attention and time. We as students are the role models; We give the kids information and show them hands-on how to do things, and I think that really helps them absorb what they’re learning.”

Get the recipes!

Apple Spider and Pumpkin Snack
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Pumpkin & Broccoli Mac & Cheese
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apple nachos
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Pumpkin pancakes with apples
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Protein Pancakes
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energy balls
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