Back to the Kitchen: Volunteering in the Fall

Even though my study is coming to a close, my involvement with cooking-based nutritional education is not short term. I am here for the long run, determined to outrun childhood obesity and diabetes for future generations. By teaching children how to cook healthily and by providing them the opportunity to try a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, I am making a difference one child at a time.  SHIP is helping me make this difference thanks to their support.

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Center for Eating Behavior and Child Development

Working in the Center for Eating Behavior and Child Development has opened my eyes to the variety of research being conducted in this specific field. It was not until early November 2010 when I read a William and Mary Honors thesis on the effects of nutrition education that I first heard about this Center and the wonderful work it was producing. Becoming a part of this lab took my fascination with food preference development to an entirely new level. Now, I am not just reading about it but rather am a part of this research through my involvement with the Center and my own personal study.

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The Complications of Block Scheduling in the Research World

You would think that creating a testing schedule within a structured school schedule would be easy. However, finalizing my study’s three week testing schedule was complicated and difficult process. Each participating elementary school was on a block schedule format that rotated each week. This type of schedule prevented me from being able to finalize my testing times weeks in advance since I did not personally have access to each child’s schedules. In addition, holidays and teacher work days also altered each school’s rotating schedule, setting it back a day or two. These complications were just a few obstacles we had to overcome.

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The Ups and Downs of Research Involving Community Partners

Before the spring semester began, my research project was already underway. Throughout the month of November, I met with Dr. Catherine Forestell, who is the Lab Director of the College’s Center for Eating Behavior and Child Development, multiple times as we began to plan this study. Then in late November 2010, both Dr. Forestell and I met with the coordinator of the SHIP program, Dr. Denise Corbett, to discuss the possibility of conducting this study in the spring. Dr Corbett was very enthusiastic about our project and was able to make suggestions about the age range of the children we could test and the feasibility of our project. After a successful meeting with Dr. Corbett, we continued to move forward by submitting a proposal to the Williamsburg-James City County Public School System in early December. One of the concerns that the superintendent had was related to taking children out of their classes for testing.  Class time is very precious as children prepare for SOLs. Due to these concerns we revised our proposal to cater to the needs of the schools by requesting to test children during their gym times.

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Let’s Get Cooking!

Partnering with the School Health Initiative Program (SHIP), I began to see what was being done within the WJCC community to address the issue of childhood obesity as I became more active in volunteering with their after-school challenge clubs and talking with their various staff members and volunteers. Building off of my work with SHIP, my action research has been narrowed down to particularly focus on cooking-based nutritional education, because I want to find out how it affects eating behaviors among children (ages 7 to10 years old) in order to emphasize the importance of hands-on interaction with healthy foods in fighting childhood obesity.

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