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Food for thought: Nutrition, dietetics majors win capstone scholarship project from ConAgra

April 24, 2013
Clockwise from top left: Brittany Hoffman, Ashley Sorrentino, Katie Henkel, Rachel McBride and Ariel Levitt.

Clockwise from top left: Brittany Hoffman, Ashley Sorrentino, Katie Henkel, Rachel McBride and Ariel Levitt.

The place: professor Sheila Barrett’s spring 2013 FCNS 420 class. The time: Day One.

As senior nutrition and dietetics majors Rachel McBride, Katie Henkel, Brittany Hoffman, Ariel Levitt and Ashley Sorrentino reviewed the syllabus, they noticed a capstone project required for the class. The group members chose to design and present a food safety workshop.

McBride had heard of the Food Safety Student Challenge scholarship from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, supported by ConAgra. “Why not kill two birds with one capstone?” Levitt said.

The group knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. ConAgra funded only nine capstone scholarships.

Students were required to submit applications with 200-word essays about what role they can they play as food safety advocates and why their schools need food safety champions.

Richard Fritz, director of NIU Residential Dining, and Beverly Henry, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics, mentored the group.

The quintet met with Fritz every week for guidance on the workshop. They also met with Henry to develop their plan and to receive feedback on drafts of their essay; she helped with the wording and effectiveness to make their essay stand out to the judges.

“With only 200 words, you need to say a lot in very little space,” Henry said. “With only nine capstone scholarships, there is a lot of competition all over the country.”

Here is their award-winning essay about their food safety workshop:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat RightAs senior nutrition students, we aim to provide a fun and educational program about proper food safety techniques to fellow students living in residence halls. Through classroom and work experience we noticed how students often take a risk with food safety- largely because they lack the know-how. Our plan includes 2 interactive workshops, collaboration with faculty and staff, and utilization of social media and video recordings.

  • Using residence hall classrooms, we will provide lessons and prompt discussion about basic food safety as:
    • Food safety risks in dorm living and sanitation basics (e.g. hand washing, proper food temperatures, and separating raw and ready-to-eat foods)
  • In our Undergraduate Food Lab, students will have hands on experience with the material outlined above.
  • A Facebook page will advertise our events, display key sources, and measure out program reach.
  • Video segments will be available for promotion of food safety across campus.

Through financial support of the Food Safety Challenge NIU students can learn about and practive food safety to keep healthy. As senior Student Dietetic Association officers and Illinois Food Sanitation Certificate card holders, we are qualified to educate our peers on the important subject of food safety.


by Brandon Grosz