Nutrition and Dietetics Instructors and Students Present at North St. Louis Symposium

Saint Louis University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics had an instructor and three students present at the North St. Louis Symposium on October 24. The North St. Louis Symposium was a call for faculty, staff and students from around the SLU campus to gather and share their actual or proposed work in North St. Louis.

The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics has partnered with the City of St. Louis Department of Health to create a team, Nutrition Services, to provide nutrition education and other health-related services across the greater St. Louis region.

Lori Jones, MPH, MS, RD, LD, instructor in the department of nutrition and dietetics, presented a poster titled “Increased Access and Building Demand for Healthy Foods through the Healthy Corner Store Project. The Healthy Corner Store Project is a partnership between the St. Louis Department of Health and University of Missouri Extension Service that addresses access to healthy foods in areas of the city that are “food deserts.” Nutrition Services serves on the team for this endeavor. The project provides a way to improve the desire for, and access to, healthy foods in corner stores that traditionally are limited in these types of offerings. It also empowers the surrounding community to direct community resources to promote better health for the residents while supporting the local corner store. To read more on the Healthy Corner Store Project, please see Jones’ abstract.

Lauren Landfried, MS, RD, LD, instructor in the department of nutrition and dietetics, and Meng Meng, a practicum student pursuing a dual Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and Master of Public Health, presented a poster titled “Using School Garden Programs to Improve Health.” The presentation outlined the Department’s work developing the garden and nutrition programs at Dunbar Elementary during the past two years.

The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, using the Dunbar Elementary School students’ design, received a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to place garden beds on the school grounds to enhance student learning and involvement with the environment and growing process. Following the garden placement, SLU dietetic interns taught the students gardening and growing practices, from starting seedlings to harvesting and tasting their produce in a year-end salad party.

Last year, each third and fourth grade student at Dunbar received four lessons in garden learning and the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity. The Department also assisted in establishing Dunbar’s School Health Advisory Council which addresses the St. Louis Public School Health and Wellness Policy. To read more on Landfried and Meng’s work, please see their abstract.

Elizabeth Murphy, senior in the department of Nutrition and Dietetics, presented a poster titled “The International Institute of St. Louis’s Global Farms Initiative proposed West End Farmers Market,” which was a summary of her survey of West End resident’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, their interest in a farmers market and the nearby garden farmed by refugees and immigrants.

The International Institute Global Farms Initiative is an agriculture-based career training program for refugees. The goal is to provide refugees who desire a career in agriculture a variety of educational opportunities intended for replication in their own farming endeavors.

Melissa Ramel, MS, MPH, RD, LD, instructor in the department of nutrition and dietetics and coordinator with the City of St. Louis Health Department, presented a posted titled “Let’s Move! STL.” Let’s Move! STL is the local chapter of the Let’s Move!, a national initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation. Let’s Move! STL is Nutrition Services effort to coordinate, engage, connect and leverage community partners to collaborate and achieve a common goal – decrease the percentage of individuals who are classified as overweight and obese.

Let’s Move! STL has hosted free events including school assemblies, fitness expos, health fairs and golfing and walking activities. Additionally, Let’s Move! STL sponsored an urban harvest festival linking the community to local gardens and sustainability options; and was instrumental in conducting a “Move Your Body” dance flash mob. To read more on Let’s Move! STL, please see the abstract.

Erin Szopiak, RD, LD, graduate student in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, presented “Revitalization of the St. Matthew's Neighborhood,” a community redevelopment plan. This plan was put together by the GardenVille Community Garden, its umbrella organization, Revitalization 2000 and the GardenVille Community Collaborative and will help guide the future activities of Revitalization 2000 and create a framework for a sustainable community. It is rooted in the idea of participatory action and empowerment. There is hope that students and faculty from Saint Louis University would be brought in to assist with neighborhood development, identification of sources of funding and research regarding effective models of community development. View Szopiak’s abstract.

Saint Louis University, with its urban location, Jesuit tradition, mission, commitment to social justice and history of service to the underserved has taken a position to address social, economic, education and health disparities that exist in North St. Louis. Faculty, staff and students partner with community organizations on a number of program, service and research activities.

Melissa White, MS, MPH, RD, LD, adjunct faculty member in the department of nutrition and dietetics, presented a poster titled “The Sweet Potato Project: Revitalizing Disadvantaged Urban Communities by Developing Culinary and Entrepreneurial Skills in At-Risk Youth.” The Nutrition Services team has partnered with the Sweet Potato Project to provide participants the opportunity to receive entrepreneurial tutoring while producing and distributing a food-based product made from the sweet potatoes they planted in the summer.

The Sweet Potato Project is a pilot program managed in the St. Louis region by the North Area Community Development Corporation. The concept is a collaboration project between NACDA and When We Dream Together, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to urban revitalization. The Sweet Potato Project was developed to provide at-risk youth with self-sustaining, entrepreneurial, small business, sales and marketing skills to be applied in their own inner-city neighborhoods and throughout their lives. After summer class and training, the participants will market their products to area churches, small businesses and through door-to-door sales in various communities. For more information, see her abstract.

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