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Nutrition Education Current Research and Outreach Projects

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. 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.