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Nutriton Education Current Research and Outreach Projects

The overall goal of this project is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in a community of families in a low income, multi-cultural and multiethnic
neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts, by integrating expertise in Agriculture, Food Access, and Nutrition Education programming and by increasing the availability of fruits and vegetables for people living in the target area.

Breastfeeding is now recognized as the optimal feeding for healthy child development, including in the prevention of childhood obesity

Obesity is higher among black and Latino children compared to their white peers, regardless of gender and age (ranging from preschoolers to adolescents). On an alarming note, research now shows that overweight and obesity exist in very young children. This suggests that how a child is fed early in life is important in preventing childhood obesity. Currently, the scientific evidence suggests that childhood obesity is due to a complex relationship between genes, behavior and the environment, however, the fast rise of the obesity epidemic implies a significant influence of environmental factors. One such environmental influence is in the area of infant feeding

 A major driver of food choice today among consumers is health promotion, which has resulted in ever-expanding research on bioactive food components and nutriceuticals. As each person's diet is a key contributor to health and disease risk, agriculture has been a core sector of economic viability and food production systems with the increasing recognition of the interface between nutrition and agriculture.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated many health benefits of food-based bioactive components, suggesting that bioactive molecules in our diet can be effective in preventing or delaying the disease process.

Therefore it is important to identify the novel bioactive molecules...capable of preventing diseases...through cellular signaling and gene regulation.


The School Meals Accountability and Responsibility Training Tools (SMARTTs) project was developed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DESE) in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Extension Nutrition Education Program (NEP) and Labor Management Workplace Education Program (LMWEP) with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to improve and increase:

Responsibility - Through training of Local Educational Agency (LEA) administrative personnel in application, certification, verification, meal counting and meal claiming procedures.

Accountability - With technology improvements, which demonstrate an ability to address administrative errors through the use of targeted monitoring and increased training in error-prone LEAs.

Oversight and training activities focused on the nutritional quality of the meals.

This research will investigate whether the same type of physical environment needed to promote improved dietary behaviors in families and children will also be effective in older adults. Information gathered will assist nutrition professionals in designing interventions for older adults emphasizing the need for fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet and based on factors relevant to them. Results will also be used to design community-wide food and environmental policies. nutrition is important for growing children. Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables at an early age is the best way to develop healthy eating habits that will last for a lifetime.  However, young children are at a greater risk for food borne illness if fresh produce is not handled properly.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plant based food products were responsible for approximately 46% of all foodborne illnesses from 1998 – 2008. Through a USDA NIFA grant, the project investigators identified the produce-handling practices, attitudes, and knowledge of early childcare educators and foodservice staff in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Nearly half the centers assessed used some combination of farm visits, planting gardens, serving local produce, holding taste tests or conducting nutrition education.  Only 63%, however, reported that children always wash hands after picking garden foods; and only 50% used clean containers to harvest fruits and vegetables.  These results were used to develop and implement a food safety curriculum in two formats:  an interactive online program as well as in-person workshops.

This research will examine the links between food practices in the Cambodian-American community and health risks among pregnant and post-partum Cambodian women in the United States. More than half of all Cambodian Americans live below the poverty line and a significant number are at high risk for food insecurity and hunger.