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How MyPlate Inspired One California Student to Make a Difference on her College Campus

Posted by Debbie Nigri, MA, RD, Nutritionist, Child Nutrition Division, USDA Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition
Apr 16, 2015
MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) host nutrition events for other students on their campus.
MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) host nutrition events for other students on their campus.

We love hearing success stories from our MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors! Over 3,450 students, representing all 50 states, have signed on to take part in the MyPlate On Campus initiative, USDA’s effort to promote healthy eating on college campuses nationwide through peer-to-peer education. Read below about how one group of passionate students is helping to spread the MyPlate message. Also, be sure to check out what MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors have been up to at Rutgers University and University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Guest post by Sitoya Mansell, MPH, CHES President, Residential Nutrition Wellness Program, and Gena Alltizer, President, CSUSB Nutrition Student Association

After becoming a MyPlate On Campus Ambassador in 2013, California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) student and Nutrition and Food Sciences major Sitoya Mansell was inspired to create a nutrition program for students on her campus.  Coming to college is a major transition for many students, and Sitoya saw the need to guide students in making healthy choices in their newly independent lives.  With the assistance of the DPD Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences and the Office of Residential Living, a nutrition education program called the Residential Nutrition Wellness Program (RNWP) was created for students living in campus housing and dormitories.

The CSUSB Residential Nutrition Wellness Program focuses on students who are no longer living at home with parents, and are just beginning to learn how to shop for and cook their own meals.  Living on campus, many students have access to convenience, or fast foods that they may not realize are poor nutritional choices. Students are faced with the challenges of a busy schedule, access to minimal cooking facilities, and a completely new routine.  The RNWP seeks to educate them about making healthy choices now, to avoid unwanted consequences later on in life.

The goal of the RNWP program is to improve the eating habits of students who live on campus through fun, interactive workshops and health fairs. RNWP's objective is to make sure that students have the information they need to help them make choices in their daily lives that will keep them feeling energized, and motivated to succeed.  Incorporating MyPlate and the 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series, the program provides students with practical tips and tools to promote a healthy lifestyle. Partnering with CSUSB's Nutrition Student Association, local food banks, on campus dining, the local public health department, 2-1-1 services, California Dairy Counsel, and SNAP, the RNWP has been successful in helping hundreds of students learn about nutrition.

RNWP hosts three mini nutrition workshops quarterly, highlighting one of the subjects from the MyPlate 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series.  Topics such as Be Choosy in the Dining Hall, Mini-Fridge Makeover, and Use SuperTracker Your Way give students real life examples to illustrate ways they can bring healthy nutrition into their own lives.  Food insecurity is a concern across many college campuses, so RNWP asked a speaker from a local food pantry to come discuss services that the pantry provides to students in need.  During the workshops, the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences offers free nutrition counseling to students so they can talk with peers about their food and activity choices, and get help with meal planning and setting healthy goals. Nutrition games are played to further enhance learning and make it fun!  The RNWP also emails a quarterly newsletter to suggest more MyPlate tips and resources.

In September, to welcome students to the new school year and their new living quarters, RNWP hosted its first interactive nutrition and health fair. Students majoring in Nutrition and Food Science welcomed students at several interactive nutrition stations with diverse nutrition topics such as Reducing Sodium, Re-think Your Drink, Vegetarian & Vegan Diets, Portion Control, Phytochemicals & Antioxidants, and Food Security.  The students got to participate in hands-on activities like measuring out the sodium or sugar in a particular food based on the Nutrition Facts Panel, providing tangible lessons that they will remember.  Campus dining participated in the event by serving healthy snacks and demonstrating how the students could easily make them in their dorms or apartments.  Healthy recipes and the 10 Tips Education Series materials were given to students. The students were very excited about the event!

After the incredible response RNWP received after the first interactive nutrition and health fair, it has partnered with CSUSB's Nutrition Student Association to host another fair celebrating National Nutrition Month.  Students are becoming aware of the health challenges society is facing, and are looking for information how they can lead healthy, productive lives.  RNWP plans to continue its mission in educating students to maintain healthy eating habits so they realize their goals, both academically and personally!   

Check out what CSUSB's Nutrition and Food Sciences majors are doing to help our campus community!

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition