Nutrition students pack energy into food prep demos

In a bright community center classroom, a young woman leads several older women in preparing a healthy Thai peanut salad. While the women may have cooked family meals for years, they now explore new ways to make tasty, healthier dishes just for one or two. All members of the Toco Hills Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) enjoy the demonstration as part of Georgia State University’s community service-learning and are produced by the Nutrition Coordinated Program (CP) graduate students each semester.

A student liaison manages this community outreach as part of the curriculum, with each assigned to a community partner. The Department of Nutrition has multiple community partnerships scattered throughout Atlanta including the Toco Hills NORC and Mayer Balser NORC, Sweet Auburn Market, Decatur Farmer’s Market, Decatur YMCA, and the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. Liaisons meet with community leaders to assess the needs and desires of the community and then provide the nutrition graduate students to complete the workshops. Many community partners request cooking/healthy food preparation demonstrations. nutrition-norc-demo-3

Clancy Ogden, the nutrition student liaison with Toco Hills NORC, revamped her community partners’ programs to be more interactive, as requested by the NORC leader Ashley Maloy and the participants.

“Ashley felt like the members would enjoy it [the cooking demo]more if they got to help out with the preparation,” says Ogden.

Sara Atcheson gave the first interactive demonstration, which was well-received and fun for the participants and CP student alike. Atcheson along with the NORC members made a chopped Thai salad with peanut ginger dressing, discussing health benefits of eating a variety of vegetables, including uncooked ones. nutrition-norc-demo-2

“The members were very welcoming and friendly! They enjoyed doing the preparation themselves, and left with the first-hand knowledge of the desired chopping techniques for this salad – rather than only seeing the finished product,” says Atcheson.

“We talked about edamame and peanut butter as good sources of plant-based protein, and the members described different ways they like to incorporate those items into their meals at home. Overall it was a great experience – for me certainly, and I believe for them as well!”