A nutrition researcher at the Rochester Institute of Technology hopes to reach 10,000 New Yorkers with free resources that promote healthy nutrition and lifestyle tools that have been tested and proven to be effective.
Barbara Lohse, director of RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition, designed the “About Eating” program for people with limited resources and made it available on the Nutrition Education Engineering and Design Center website. (NEEDS). Now, with a $194,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, Lohse can spread her nutrition education and healthy lifestyle tools across the state and target underserved communities, including Spanish-speaking New Yorkers. Mother Cabrini is one of the largest foundations in New York that provides funding for health care and training and resources for low-income people.
Lohse will use the funding to make “About Eating” available to the 10 tax regions of New York State and the people it serves.
“We’re going to do a marketing stratification the way it works for each tax region: social media, email, newsletter, listening sessions, or brochures,” Lohse said. “Our hope is to get 1,000 people in each tax region to at least click on the link to start the website. Our goal is to reach 10,000 people.”
“About Food” covers topics such as cooking, weight acceptance, appetite and satiety, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle with lessons that can be completed in any order and multiple times. Participants can choose when to answer the questionnaires embedded within each module to measure learning success.
“One person’s experience with the program can be very different from another person’s depending on their interests,” Lohse said.
Information on healthy lifestyles will be translated into Spanish by the Ibero-American League of Action.
“We will be conducting qualitative interviews with Spanish-speaking New Yorkers to see what they think about the program and the translation,” Lohse said.
“About Eating” is available to everyone on the NEEDS Center website, a free community resource offered by RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition, and was developed and tested with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The digital program grew out of a multistate study that focused on promoting healthy eating to college students. Lohse, a grant researcher, reviewed the content of the website for the underserved population she worked with in Pennsylvania using SNAP-Ed, the educational arm of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food. Stamps, and added a module on exercise. .
A randomized controlled study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in 2015 found that participants improved their ability to make food budgets, use nutrition labels, and plan healthy meals. From the program, Lohse added a sixth section on body weight and size called “About My Size.”
Now, “About Food” is included in the introductory nutrition classes at RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. Lohse teaches a postgraduate class called “Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health and Wellness,” he said.
Her work in spreading “About Eating” to New Yorkers will enrich her class discussions. “It’s real-life material that I can bring to the classroom,” Lohse said. “The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation not only helps New Yorkers, but is helping in the way RIT can educate students, who can ultimately end up helping New Yorkers when they enter the workforce.”