Research: Nutrition information, food demo affect eating habits of children

Northern Marianas College student Andrea Loste, left, is joined by her mentor, Jessica Delos Reyes, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. renal dietitian, after presenting her research on child nutrition and the impact of nutrition information and food demonstrations. (NMC)

Northern Marianas College student Andrea Loste, left, is joined by her mentor, Jessica Delos Reyes, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. renal dietitian, after presenting her research on child nutrition and the impact of nutrition information and food demonstrations. (NMC)

As part of a summer fellowship program, four Northern Marianas College students have been engaged in the past several weeks in research projects that examine various aspects of children’s health and nutrition.

The Child Health Assessment in the Pacific Undergraduate Summer Fellowship Program, which is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, provides a summer training and research opportunity for undergraduate students—known as fellows—working toward degrees in nutrition, nursing, early childhood education, public health, and other related degrees.

One of the research projects, led by NMC sophomore and CHAP fellow Andrea Loste, evaluated changes in children’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs toward fruit and vegetable intake before and after participating in nutrition education activities.

Loste’s research involved conducting surveys and handing out food frequency questionnaires and food recognition forms to assess fruit and vegetable dietary intake and nutrition knowledge after participants attended nutrition classes and viewed two food demonstrations.

“I was able to conclude from the research that nutrition education positively influenced participants’ beliefs toward fruits and vegetable intake and that participation in food demonstrations increased the likelihood of participants’ fruit and vegetable consumption and inclination to eat the food made during both food demonstrations,” said Loste.

She also concluded that healthy eating among children will likely be more successful if paired with nutrition education and food demonstrations.

Other CHAP fellows included NMC students Jesse Deleon Guerrero, Maria Dizon, and Allysha Lloren. Their research will also be highlighted throughout the week.

The objectives of the CHAP Summer Fellowship Program, one of the training components of the Children’s Healthy Living Program, are threefold: building Pacific regional capacity in early childhood nutrition and health assessment; developing and sustaining the Pacific network of individuals working to monitor and prevent early childhood obesity and health disparities; and working to develop training in early childhood nutrition and health assessment.

“We are proud of the research that the CHAP fellows have completed with the guidance from their mentors,” said NMC president Dr. Carmen Fernandez.

According to CNMI CHAP lead Patricia Coleman, “Becoming a CHAP fellow is a competitive process. This is CHAP’s second year, and once again, NMC had many excellent applicants for the fellowship.”

Students from Chaminade University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the University of Guam also participated in the CHAP program.

Previous fellows include Robert Suzuki Jr. and Rachel Reyes. Suzuki is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UH Manoa. Reyes just graduated from NMC in spring 2017 with her bachelor’s degree in Education. 

The fellows are mentored by Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. renal dietitian Jessica Delos Reyes and NMC Cooperative, Research, Extension, and Education Service team members Rose Castro, Tayna Belyeu-Camacho, and Coleman.

All CHAP summer fellows receive $2,100 stipend, travel to Hawaii for a seven-day training opportunity at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, a scholarship to cover tuition and fees for four credits of coursework through the University of Hawaii Outreach College, and resources and support to complete a mentored summer field experience related to diet or anthropometry field assessment techniques. The CNMI CHAP Program is housed at Northern Marianas College Cooperative, Research, Extension, and Education Service. (NMC)

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