Two ISU profs aim to improve Iowa children’s nutrition

Gabe Davis

Two ISU faculty members are helping to improve children’s nutrition through the national program Team Nutrition.

Mary Gregoire, professor and chairwoman of hotel, restaurant and institution management, and Katherine Thomas, associate professor of health and human performance, are two ISU faculty members working on the Iowa branch of Team Nutrition, a program sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture. The program, which is running its demonstration projects in Iowa, began as an effort to improve the health of young children across America and has received a $450,000 grant from the USDA for its Iowa program.

Gregoire said she was chosen by Team Nutrition to create ways to give Iowa school students healthier meals and to improve their overall health.

“Ultimately, what the USDA wants is what will make the program successful and sustainable for all of America,” she said. “Iowa is one of four states that were awarded grants by USDA to develop models for Team Nutrition’s programs.”

Gregoire said the grant money goes toward the 10 schools that were selected through an application process to be part of the demonstration projects. The schools are working together with the Iowa Department of Education Bureau and Iowa State.

“[Iowa State] has had a long working relationship with the IDEB,” she said.

The grant was awarded in January 2000 and runs through August of 2002. Gregoire said the money will go towards the cost of materials in the classrooms, new foods that will be served by the schools, community events that will try to get the parents and families involved and new equipment for physical education classes.

Thomas said she is in charge of the physical activity portion of the program by designing the programs the four states will use in their projects.

“There are several different formulas that go into figuring out how much physical activity a child needs in a day,” she said. “I want to provide them with guidelines for how much physical activity the kids need.”

Thomas also said she will be acting as the only physical education representative for the project.

“I believe that physical activity is important in our culture and important for our children,” she said.

Thomas and Gregoire said they have worked together for the last three years with Team Nutrition and the IDEB to develop these programs, which they hope will someday be applied to every school district in America.

Prior to coming to Iowa State three years ago, Gregoire said she worked for the USDA and the National Food Service Institute. She said she has stayed involved for a long time because she is hopeful about the future results.

“I think that it will have some real major impacts down the road,” she said. “The bottom line is to have people in college and older have good eating habits that will carry them through all of their adult lives. The first step in working towards this goal is to raise awareness in the elementary and middle school age children.”