Students give the skinny on organic food choices

Choosing which foods to eat for a healthy diet can be a daunting task.

There can be so many questions.

Which organic fruits and vegetables are best? What does all the information on nutrition labels mean? Which healthy foods are the yummiest? Do I have to eat so many green veggies? Proper nutrition takes work and knowledge.

A group of Radford University nutrition students have eagerly embraced the role of educating community and school groups about how to make choices concerning their health.

Each semester, Jyotsna Sharman, an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Radford University, challenges students enrolled in her Community and Cultural Nutrition course to plan and publicly present lessons targeting the specific needs of various communities.

Three of Sharman's students, Susan Kouzel, Jennifer Pfautz and Caitlin Thedieck, visited RU's Selu Conservancy near the end of the fall semester to give a presentation on nutrition education and organic gardening.

Their audience was made up of members of the Selu Garden and Service Club and RU students in a Leadership 110 class.

The presenting trio "assessed their audience's knowledge of organic vegetables before and after the presentations, answering questions along the way," said Sharman, a registered dietician. "They also assessed the buying habits of the group and taught which fruits and vegetables were the most important to buy organic."


Nutrition students, (from left) Susan Kouzel, Caitlin Thedieck and Jennifer Pfautz, visited RU's Selu Conservancy near the end of the fall semester to give a presentation on nutrition education and organic gardening.

Throughout the talk, Kouzel, Pfautz and Thedieck also provided consumer information about nutrition labels and organic certification while also addressing common misconceptions concerning purchasing organic foods.

"We discussed the benefits of locally grown produce as well as tips on making better choices when shopping for food," Kouzel said. "We also provided information on the differences between organic and conventional food items and discussed the various benefits, drawbacks and myths of choosing organic food."

They also discussed the sustainability of the global food system and provided perspective on the impacts of pesticides on non-organic food, the environment and human health.

"I am thrilled that Susan, Jennifer and Caitlin presented information about organic gardening because they brought expertise from their field to students in many other majors within Radford University that have committed time to working in the organic garden at Selu," Sharman said. "The presentation provided nutrition information that complements and enhances the hands-on learning experience of working in the garden."

The presentations were part of the Nutritional Education project in Sharman's course, for which students, all of whom are seniors, plan and present lessons to target specific needs of various and diverse communities.

Nine other students from Sharman's class delivered informative presentations around the region to groups that included school children from kindergarten to 12th grade, church support groups, a cancer support group and the Salem Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Sharman began the course project during the 2013-14 academic year with a number of students venturing out into communities and schools across Virginia to spread awareness of healthy dietary practices.

Jan 20, 2015