CALS Connection — CALS Connection - Spring 2012
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Graduate Students Encourage Youngsters To Eat Yummy Foods
Chelsea Poindexter

Food science and human nutrition graduate students are creating an interactive nutrition curriculum for public elementary schools to promote healthy habits in kids.

Youth Understanding MyPlate (YUM) was designed to introduce nutrition concepts to pre-kindergarteners through second graders. The goal of the curriculum is to encourage children to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to be physically active.

The United States Department of Agriculture replaced the Food Guide Pyramid with MyPlate in June 2011.MyPlate is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, providing food and physical activity recommendations for targeted age groups.

YUM was created in 10 months by five food science and human nutrition graduate students and two faculty members and was unveiled in June 2011. Students were given a group assignment to create a hands-on curriculum to earn credits for their health and wellness education course. The students collectively came up with the six-lesson curriculum.

“We started out with the logo development, each individual doodling our own designs,” said Lauren Headrick, graduate student. “We weren’t exactly sure what the curriculum was about.We just knew it regarded nutrition.We wanted to make the YUM logo fun And kid-friendly. We used the colors of the MyPlate food groups and an orange to represent the state of Florida.”

YUM is divided into six lessons, progressing in complexity from the younger to the older age groups. Each lesson contains grade-specific learning programs and nutrition physical activities, a recommended children’s book, a letter to parents, a healthy snack that pertains to the lesson and a worksheet.

“The lessons were originally focused around the Food Guide Pyramid but had to be redesigned around MyPlate,” said graduate student Cassie Gaisser. “I was relieved my lesson fit perfectly into the MyPlate program, since we had worked diligently on the curriculum for the past 10 months.” Headrick was responsible for the lesson “Delicious Dairy,” teaching children what is in the dairy group and the importance of drinking 2.5 cups of milk every day for strong bones and teeth. Gaisser was responsible for “Create your Plate,” taking everything the students learned to create their own MyPlate.

“Designing a curriculum for the kids to grasp onto and understand took many months of revising and pilot testing,” Gaisser said. “The YUM curriculum is aimed at children in pre-kindergarten through second grade as of now, but Will hopefully develop in the future to educate children throughout elementary school.”

Twenty-eight county extension agents in Florida were given materials and trained on how to teach the YUM curriculum in their counties.

“YUM was our baby,” Headrick said.“We nurtured it for 10 months through the ups and downs, revisions and deadlines. To see the finished product was worth it in the end. The response was awesome and everyone loved it.”

For more information, contact Karla Pagán Shelnutt, assistant professor, at