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Student presents food literacy research at Harvard University

ISSUED: 22 April 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A Shepherd University student made a presentation at Harvard University about food literacy research she’s conducting with the Design for Food Literacy program in Oregon. Caroline Shamberger, a sophomore psychology major from Morgantown, traveled to Harvard March 25-26 to make the presentation at the annual Just Food? Forum on Land Use, Rights & Ecology.

Shamberger has worked on the project since her senior year in high school. She became involved at the suggestion of her uncle, Paul Carlson, whose company, PCA Health and Safety Consultants in Lake Oswego, Oregon, helps to support the program. Its goal is to address the impact not having access to fresh, healthy food has on kids and their families. The project includes a garden at Nestucca Elementary School in Cloverdale, Oregon, that is used to provide lessons in proper nutrition and how to grow food.

Shamberger’s role in the project is to do the research and create the overall experiment design. She made the presentation at Harvard with Sarah Skinker, a service member for FoodCorps of Oregon, and Johanna Wood, leader of the Design for Food Literacy Program and the CoDesign Club at Nestucca High School.

“It was very surreal,” Shamberger said. “It was such a great atmosphere, and it was so neat to be around so many people who care about land and food use and just overall expanding and making sure people are fed and are fed proper nutrition.”

One component of the research is finding out whether children from a low-income school district like the one in Oregon benefit when they are given more protein snacks. The group is also working to identify what low-cost high-protein snacks are available.

Shamberger said she and her partners are working with the first grade class at Nestucca Elementary. The class is divided into three reading groups and they are giving the lowest reading group an extra protein snack to see if it helps with their literacy and overall health.

“We’re looking for snacks that are non GMO, that are organic, and locally sourced as much as possible with true protein that’s going to last throughout the day, not processed foods,” Shamberger said. “Just nutrient-dense protein snacks that will keep the kids filled because a lot of these kids only get the meals that are provided in school.”

Shamberger said it’s hoped the extra snack will help the children with their development. She said they have tried various types of high protein snacks, including smoothies with seaweed, spinach, kale, and chia seeds, and have also given the children Clif bars and other similar off-the-shelf snacks.

“We do a lot of prepackaged snacks because it’s easier to do,” she said. “But they also do experiments in the class where they create smoothies or will read a book associated with food and do a food project based on that.”

Shamberger said the research is essentially still in the prototype phase and they hope to find donors and sponsors to continue and expand it.

“Hopefully if it does become successful in Oregon maybe we can expand it here in West Virginia because there’s a lot of low income and poverty,” she said. “I think this would be a beneficial project to keep expanding.

“So many kids around the nation are not getting adequate nutrition,” she added. “The psychology side of this that I see is getting kids conditioned to eat the right food rather than the processed. Getting them conditioned that vegetables and fruits and organic food is good and that they can incorporate these foods in different ways such as the smoothies. This and reading books that are associated with food just creates a positive connotation.”

Shamberger plans to travel to Oregon this spring to spend time working directly with the program.

Listen to the interview HERE.

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