Eat your fruits and vegetables

| Denise Olson

Dr. Eric Jamelske has been conducting a few ongoing student-faculty research projects, one of which deals with trends in healthy food consumptions among American youth. The Fruit and Vegetable Research Project began in 2006 with an evaluation of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) in Wisconsin schools.

The history and implementation of the FFVP is described in more detail on the USDA and website at http://www.fns.usda.gov/ffvp, while more information regarding Wisconsin's implementation of the FFVP can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website at http://fns.dpi.wi.gov/fns_ffvp.

Over time this research has expanded to explore many methods of motivating children to eat more fruit and vegetables. Thus far, surveys have been conducted in many schools across the state of Wisconsin with a particular focus on schools in the Chippewa Valley. Our focus has been on the influences of availability and accessibility as well as incentives in increasing fruit and vegetable intake among children.

Dr. Jamelske had the following remarks about this ongoing project, which gives some important context to the work:

"Poor nutrition among children, including low fruit and vegetable intake have contributed to rising rates of obesity among U.S. children which have been shown to persist into adulthood with significant health/social costs and consequences.

Motivated by this poor outcome, I seek out partnerships to conduct research to address this important issue. Specifically, we have worked with many public school partners on a variety of projects designed to provide valuable information on how to motivate/influence children to eat more fruits and vegetables.

There is a developing literature examining this important issue in a variety of fields and our work fits nicely into this literature addressing a timely and important issue with meaningful public health and public policy implications. Specifically we have produced multiple publications and numerous presentations sharing our work in a variety of public forums.

Perhaps most importantly this research project consists of a diverse interdisciplinary team of students with varying levels of experience at different stages in their educational careers. This unique team-based format serves as a model of excellence in student/faculty collaborative research and also provides significant benefits to our local community and beyond."

Watch a UW-System video of this project presented at Posters in the Rotunda

Because we so highly value the unique collaborative research opportunities Blugolds are able to get as undergrads, it's important to that those experiences speak for themselves. We asked a few of the recent student research team members a few questions about taking part in this ongoing research, and here are their responses:

What is the basis of this research?

Our current focus is on increasing the vegetable intake of elementary school children. Our current study involves studying the effects of encouragement, praise, and additional activities in the classroom to increase how many vegetables children eat. So far out data suggests that encouragement does increase vegetable intake as compared to no encouragement.
~Kjirstin Martell, senior, team data collection specialist, biology major

We provided vegetable snacks three times a week to children at a local elementary school and recorded their consumption. Some classrooms had encouragement from their teachers while others were control groups. In our research we hope to inspire more programs like the one we implemented in schools across the country. Americans have less than ideal diets that can lead to many health and economic problems in the future. Introducing children to healthy foods can have a huge impact on the future health of Americans.
~Isabel Chmielewska, senior, liberal arts economics major

What have you learned, outside of the topic matter itself, since beginning work on this collaborative research?

Since I have started working on this team, I have learned much about leadership and public speaking. I have learned how to analyze data, which has helped in my science lab courses. I have learned how to truly know what I'm researching, to the point that I can talk about our research projects with others and explain its details. I have also become more comfortable speaking to large audiences because of  the presentations I have given to present our research. 
~Kjirstin Martell, senior, team data collection specialist, biology major

Working on this research has exposed me to many new computer programs that have enhanced my technical skills that will be beneficial to me as I transition into having a career. I have also strengthened my public speaking skills which was something that I have struggled with in the past. Presenting at conferences pushes me outside my comfort zone and helps me gain experience that will help me in the future.
~Isabel Chmielewska, senior, liberal arts economics major

What should prospective students know about the opportunities to conduct this type of collaborative research with faculty?

The ability to have my professors know me and not just be one person in a 150 person lecture was important to me. So while I didn’t know about this specific kind of student-faculty opportunity, I did want the more one-on-one connection with my professors which was a factor in my choice to attend UWEC. I think that there should be more advertisement about these opportunities because I joined as a Junior and if I had known about them in the past I would have joined sooner. I definitely think this kind of opportunity should impact prospective students choice to attend UWEC — Spread the word! The economics department will accommodate any student who wants to do this kind of research. I hope that everyone across campus gets the opportunity to work this in depth in their field of study before they graduate.

This project has been an extremely useful opportunity because often being in college its hard to see what you can do with your “major” or “degree” after you graduate; this project has opened my eyes to how economics can be adapted to so many different fields depending on what you’re interested in.
~Selena Scheller, junior, business economics major

 

Watch a video of the 2016 Posters in the Rotunda presenters from this project.