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SIUE senior project improves health for campus families

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 7:00 am

A group of five community health education seniors partnered with various campus services to host a Cougar Village family event emphasizing healthy eating on a budget.

As part of their senior project, the team’s mission is to use workshop-based education to instruct the families of Cougar Village about healthy eating habits while on a budget that college families can afford.

The team members are Lakendra Moffett, of Edwardsville, Brittany Sarhage, of St. Jacob, Sonia Bechtloff, of O’Fallon, Gina Francis and Joanna Gillespie, of Edwardsville, four of which are parents who said they feel this program will be important to an overlooked community on campus.

“I’m one of the parents that actually resides at Family Housing at Cougar Village, and we feel like an invisible community,” Moffett said.

The event will involve three 30-minute workshops. Not only will they focus on health, but they will also discuss vegan, gluten-free and other special diet options.

According to Bechtloff, the first workshop will involve the MyPlate concept and the second workshop will teach families how to shop and plan weekly meals.

“MyPlate.gov has portion sizes and learning how to balance and [add] variety in your meals so that you’re getting all the nutrients you need,” Bechtloff said. “Half the plate is fruits and vegetables and then lean proteins.”

The MyPlate concept does not simplify food groups to meat for protein and cereal and breads for grains. Sarhage said their program will teach families about options and substitutes that can be used instead of the usual food group choices.

Following the MyPlate workshop is a meal planning and budget workshop. It will focus on writing a grocery list based on planned meals, finding coupons and how to prepare meals that satisfy taste, budget and time constraints.

“Being that most parents are time crunched with classes and things like that, we’ll go over things like how to use a Crock-Pot because a lot of folks know it’s a time saver,” Moffett said. “Put your things in there in the morning on low, go to your classes and come back and then dinner could be ready.”

Moffett said the final workshop will be more hands-on and will be a means for parents and children to apply what they have learned from the first two workshops.

“It’ll be like cooking demos and preparation type things to go over,” Moffett said.

It is typical for parents to face picky eaters, and the community health team kept this in mind when developing their program. They said their research showed them the best way to get kids to eat healthy is to get them involved in the meal process. For this reason, there will be many children’s activities and giveaways during each workshop.

“They can learn about this stuff because if your kids are involved in the learning and preparing, they’re going to get excited about it. They’re going to want to try it,” Sarhage said.

Children’s activities and giveaways include coloring projects, learning about the MyPlate concept through take-home laminated placemats, chefs’ hats and the possible appearance of Eddie the Cougar, thanks to the Athletics Department.

The team said they were excited about their partners’ involvement, including Health Services, Dining Services and University Housing. Dining Services will provide their fruit parfait bar for families to use that evening, as well as a Crock-Pot for cooking demos.

Edwardsville’s Green Earth Store has also been involved by providing learning tools and gift cards as door prizes. Moffett and Sarhage said they were impressed by this organic grocer because it offered a selection for any dietary need and it did not feel intimidating to shop there.

“They actually have a magazine they put out monthly and they donated some of those to the parents,” Moffett said. “It has recipes and great articles. It looks small but when you go inside it’s like a whole new world opens up to you. I’m really excited about that and I’m sure some of the other parents will be too.”

For families of Cougar Village who are unable to attend next Friday, Moffett said they will have folders with material from the workshops.

“[The folders] will have nutritional information, the things that we went over in the workshops,” Moffett said. “And, we will actually be going back to those families, the [homes] of the folks we’ve surveyed and we’ll be giving that to the folks who could not attend.”

The event is set to take place at 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 at the Cougar Village Commons Multi-Function Room.

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