Student group to be honored for senior-health program

Generosity by an Idaho State University student group in Pocatello recently earned the group recognition at a national convention in Texas.

Members of ISU's Beta Rho Chapter of Phi Upsilon Omicron (Phi U), a national honor society for family and consumer sciences, will be honored with a second-place Certificate of Merit Award at the society's national meeting on Sept. 28 in Grapevine, Texas. The ISU group will be acknowledged for its program "The Path to Nutrition and Health," which was designed for senior citizens in the Pocatello area. The ISU chapter of Phi U is made up of dietetic and family and consumer sciences majors.

Every year, Phi Upsilon Omicron students choose a project to offer as a public service to the community, and the one implemented last year was very successful, said Laura McKnight, clinical associate professor for the ISU Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, who is also one of the ISU Phi U faculty advisors.

"The project falls under the hat of our service-learning theory, a philosophy of teaching and learning where students combine their academic activities with service work," McKnight said. "This not only allows them to apply what they've learned, but also gives them an opportunity to give back to the community at the same time. It is a win-win situation."

With this particular project, the ISU students designed two, two-hour workshops:

• "Cooking for One or Two/ Food Safety," which included information on money-saving shopping tips, buying food in bulk, cooking and freezing meals ahead of time, cost efficiency and smaller meal preparation. Food safety issues were identified and a recipe book was given to each participant.

• "Staying Physically Fit/Fiber/Hydration," which included information on osteoporosis, posture, weight-bearing exercises and ideas to increase daily activity. Participants were educated on the importance of diets high in fiber and the need for hydration. Water bottles were provided for all participants during the hydration session.

In addition, on the day of the workshops, the students provided a continental breakfast and lunch featuring healthy items. They also played "nutritional bingo" with the residents and awarded a variety of prizes. The students left a variety of educational materials with the senior citizens to use as a follow up and reminder of the workshops.

"We do a lot of outreach and service-learning as an integral part of our curriculum," said Jennifer Reader, an ISU dietetics student and president of the ISU chapter of Phi U. "Our dietetics program is somewhat unique for a undergraduate program because we receive a lot of exposure to what professional dietitians do out in the real world. You can read something in a book and learn it that way, but when you've gone out and done it, you really feel like you've learned it well. "

Other recent learning activities that ISU dietetic students have been involved in include a redesign of a foodservice facility for a senior center, teaching classes to Idaho Food Bank recipients on nutrition, food economics and food safety, and conducting surveys for the Idaho Food Bank and America's Second Harvest for the "Hunger in America 2006, Idaho Report."

"All these service activities help with student learning and, hopefully, helps mold students who want to be good citizens," McKnight added.