Monday, November 14, 2011

FSNE Fall Conference: Technology and Real Food

By: Sasha B. Bard, MSN

Last week all of the dietetic interns had the opportunity to attend and present at the University of Maryland (UMD) Extension 2011 Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Fall Conference. The FSNE program employs numerous nutrition educators that work in low-income areas throughout the state. Many of the FSNE educators work in public schools, teaching our children, but there are classes for adults as well. The annual fall conference is an opportunity to get all of the educators, interns, and program organizers in one room to share ideas, network, learn, and discuss the future of FSNE programming. The main focus of this year's fall conference was the use of social media and technology in nutrition education.

One of the highlights was the discussion of public health texting programs. Rebecca Dineen from the Baltimore City Health Department spoke about the Text4Baby program used to promote maternal and infant health. Texting programs are one example of how technology can help health professionals extend a message and reach a larger audience. The UMD Extension FSNE staff revealed their plan to launch a similar text campaign to promote healthy eating and regular exercise. The pilot program will start later this year and targets parents of school-age children.

The other interns and I contributed to the conference by presenting short technology tips throughout the day. My partner, Erika Wincheski, and I presented on Twitter and talked about its benefit for nutrition professionals. Other tech tools presented by our intern class included QR codes, Animoto, Poll Everywhere, and Dropbox. It was great to share our knowledge with the FSNE staff and get them excited about some of the tools we have been learning about in the internship.

We also got to hear Jackie Haven from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion speak about the launch of MyPlate. She discussed the role that technology has played in the promotion of the new food icon, specifically the online tools and resources available on the website.

The day ended with the viewing of a documentary about school nutrition called Cafeteria Man. The film featured Tony Geraci, a chef and former food-service director of Baltimore City Public Schools, who challenged the school system to redefine its approach on nutrition. He is an advocate for garden based nutrition education and fought to get fresh and local foods into the public schools.

Take away message from the conference: It is a great time to be a nutrition professional!

There is a lot of attention on nutrition right now, in the media, in government, and thanks to the First Lady. Being able to navigate and utilize technology is an important part of working with today’s audience, but it’s not everything. As Tony Geraci might say, a bigger part of our job has to do with getting back to the basics. Grow real food. Eat real food.

Photo: Erika Wincheski (left) and myself, Sasha Bard, playing with MyPlate freebies at the UMD Extension 2011 FSNE Fall Conference.

For more information about:

Maryland Extension FSNE


Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Cafeteria Man

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