Chatham University

Chatham Views

All posts by Cara Gillotti

Alumnus profile: Hal B. Klein, MAFS '12

Photo by Annie O’Neill

Like many, Hal B. Klein set out to become an actor. Like fewer, he did. After earning a BA in theatre in California, he headed to New York (to work) and to London (to pursue a post-graduate certificate in classical acting). Roles followed in a few independent films, in commercials, and at Shakespeare festivals around the country (“I usually got comic roles,” he says. “Played a bunch of clowns.”). In 2005, after seven years in New York, he moved to L.A. for a role on a PBS children’s TV show called “Lily’s Lighthouse”.

But the ship did not quite come in. “Lily’s Lighthouse had a message; it was well produced; everything about it was wonderful, and then I learned the hard lesson of L.A., which is that there are a lot of well-intentioned promises, but things fall through for all sorts of reasons,” Klein says. Then the economy crashed, roles dried up, and he started thinking about what else he might like to do, a train of thought remarkably birthed by a piece of fruit he had eaten five years earlier.

While stationed in Santa Cruz for a Shakespeare festival, Klein had stopped by a farmers’ market. “I remember very vividly eating a strawberry and going oh, whoa, that’s why people like strawberries,” he says. “And that ended up forming in a long-term way my path to Chatham, in that it sparked a realization that the stuff we get in the grocery store, in the conventional system, isn’t very tasty.”

Growing up in the 1980’s in New York and California, Klein had been a picky and unadventurous eater, eschewing vegetables in favor of pizza and hamburgers. “The 80’s were the worst time for food in a lot of ways,” he says. “What you found in grocery stores was terrible, in terms of quality and selection.” As an undergraduate in San Diego, Klein was open to the concept of good food—adding his own herbs to Prego spaghetti sauce cooked on his dorm stove, for example—but lack of familiarity (and, one presumes, funds) hampered his ability to really delve into it.

Photo by Annie O’Neill

Still, he was getting more and more into it. “I realized that at least part of the reason that I was so picky was that I didn’t understand how flavors were put together, and also that I was relying on the conventional food system,” he says. “So I thought Oh, if I cook, I’ll understand this more, and I started going to farmers’ markets more frequently. In New York, I was buying stuff at the Union Square Green Market, but it was really in California, going to the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers’ markets that it was like holy cow, there’s all this…

Thus it was that food made the short list of new career directions for Klein. “At that point,” he says, “I was thinking I would probably do cooking, culinary instruction, maybe cookbook writing, with the idea that there are probably thousands of people like me who grew up in the suburbs and weren’t really in touch with what you might call food systems, how to navigate farmers’ markets, how to go to the grocery stores and find things that are inexpensive but maybe better grown or more delicious–it’s such a vast world. I started thinking about how I could get an education, looking around, and thought: Food studies? What a strange and esoteric thing this is.”

Intrigued, he applied to Boston University, New York University, and when a Google search turned up Chatham’s brand-new Master of Arts in Food Studies program, he figured he might as well apply there, too. Klein came out and met with Alice Julier, Ph.D., MAFS program director. “She was great,” he says. “Very up front about how it was the first year of the program and about the opportunities and risks that went along with that.” It sounded good to Klein: “I knew it was a big risk to jump into the program, but I had a good sense of who I was, what I needed, and what I wanted to do, so I figured why not? Plus, I was sick of living in these big cities and Pittsburgh seemed really interesting.” Klein moved to Pittsburgh in 2010. He says it was the best decision of his life.

Being in that first cohort was “at first really like the Wild West,” Klein laughs. “I talk to people in the program now, and it’s very structured and there are a lot of choices. For us it was a lot more limited, but in a way that gave rise to flexibility. I was like, I want to be a better writer; can I take a nature writing class in the MFA in Creative Writing program? and Alice was like Sure, go for it. I wanted to do an independent study on Italian-American foodways in Pittsburgh, and I got to do that too. My thesis was a short film that I did in conjunction with a student in the film program at Chatham.”

If Klein’s interest in cookbook writing was beginning to drift toward journalism, it was cemented through a Food Writing course he took with Sherrie Flick. “I don’t think it’s possible to give Sherrie enough credit for mentorship and influence. Of all the people that I met at Chatham, she’s the person who I really think helped change my life. You meet people during your career who are so generous with their knowledge and connections and so confident in the work that they do that they can be that generous – to think oh, you’d be great for that and make that connection.”

Photo by Annie O’Neill

Which is what happened: Klein was visiting friends in L.A. when he got an e-mail from Flick saying that Pittsburgh City Paper was looking for a new “drinks” writer. “She sent it to three of us and said she thought we’d be a good fit and to let her know if we were interested. And so immediately I was like Sorry friends, I know we were going out but I gotta write this pitch.” He wrote the column for three years.

Klein graduated and started freelancing for local and national media, drawing on what he had learned and researched at Chatham, including stories on whole-animal butchery at restaurants and Italian immigrants who bury their fig trees in the winter for National Public Radio. A story about permaculture that he wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won a national award from the Association of Food Journalists.

Klein was approached to become the restaurant critic for Pittsburgh Magazine, and was later brought on full-time and took over the food section. He’s currently the associate editor and restaurant critic. “I just wrote a story on people who are in recovery from addiction or were previously incarcerated – it’s hard to find jobs and build a new life when you’re doing that. And the restaurant industry is one of those places that doesn’t really ask a lot of questions, but it’s also fraught with peril, because if you’re working nights, there’s a lot of partying,” he says. “But I also did a big feature on hamburgers last year because I thought it would be fun, which it sort of was, but also it wasn’t after a while,” he laughs. “Writing for a magazine is about finding that balance, between features and hamburgers.”

As a restaurant critic, Klein is more than capable of producing nuanced statements on the fly (they use a little bit of crunchy salt along the outside which pulls out the bitterness of the char but also enhances the creaminess of the cheese is a sentence he uttered in the course of describing Japanese pizza). But he is far from shy about considering food from a systemic perspective.

Photo by Annie O’Neill

“I just wrote a review of a restaurant downtown that’s amazing but also really expensive, at least in part because more than any restaurant in Pittsburgh right now, they’re walking the walk with sourcing ingredients. We say all the time that you should pay more for beef and pork when it’s being sourced in a more environmentally friendly, sustainable way, but what does that do as far as price structure; who is this restaurant space for now? Suddenly when you have a $125 steak, you’re excluding a lot of people from the conversation.”

Nola the Nurse and Scharmaine Baker-Lawson, DNP '08

It’s a drizzly morning in Shreveport, LA, but big band jazz pours from the loudspeakers inside the Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church, and look—a giant mascot dressed as a nurse in a white uniform with a huge afro and long felt lashes is dancing up the aisle. Bodies in puffy coats and sweatshirts twist on the pews to get a good look—hundreds of them, girls and boys in third, fourth, and fifth grades, chanting NO-LA! NO-LA! NO-LA!

Waving to the crowd, Nola the Nurse® reaches the front of the church, and starts to dance with her creator, Dr. Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, DNP ’08. They sway, bump hips, clap. Soon the music settles down and so do the kids, which is good, because Nola and Baker are up from New Orleans to do some educating.

“Have any of you heard of a nurse practitioner?” Baker demands of the crowd.

“NO,” says a little boy in the front row.

“NO?” says Baker, feigning outrage. “Well, see, that’s what I’m here to change.”

Photo by Reginald Dodd. Baker is on the right.

Baker was born in New Orleans, where she was raised by her grandmother. She discovered nursing in high school, and quickly recognized how closely it fit her interests and abilities. Baker earned her BSN from Dillard University and soon moved to Washington DC, where she worked up and down the east coast as a travel nurse. After her grandmother passed away, Baker moved to Nashville, where she earned her MSN on a full scholarship from Tennessee State University and became a family nurse practitioner. Short stints followed as a missionary nurse in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but missing New Orleans, she soon moved back home.

In 2004, she took over a physician’s house call practice, and liked it. The following year she incorporated her own house call practice, Advanced Clinical Consultants. That spring, ACC had about 15 patients. When Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, her practice had grown to 100. Baker evacuated, returning in October. By January, her patient roster had quintupled.

“It was just unbelievable,” she says. “I was seeing 20, 25 patients a day. A normal house call schedule is around 10 to 12. But after the hurricane, the community that I was serving just didn’t have anyone else to provide primary care, so I kept going.”

Outraged by the slow and paltry government response, Baker became something of a spokesperson for the state of healthcare in New Orleans after Katrina. “I felt as if we were being ignored down here. My friend and I began calling media outlets. Katie Couric was coming to do a kind of whereare-they-now on New Orleans post-Katrina for CBS Evening News, and the producer said to me ‘Not only does she want to meet you, she wants to do some house calls with you.’” Coverage by other national and local media followed, including The Washington Post and Forbes.

And still she saw patients. Being a primary care provider post-catastrophe was a crash course in environmental, social, and psychological factors that can affect physical health. “I had a patient in his 70’s who was living above a garage because his home had been devastated in the storm,” Baker says. “I was seeing him for months, and his blood pressure was just uncontrollable. He was on like five medications for it.”

“I was thinking about whether I should refer him to cardiology, but there essentially was no cardiology—so few specialists had returned to the city. So I was like ‘You know what, I’m it. I have to figure this out.’”

“Once I started digging into it, I found out that he was panicked that he didn’t have the keys to his FEMA trailer (temporary housing provided to residents whose homes were lost in the storm). He had finally gotten this trailer, but it was useless. Somehow I was able to get that key from FEMA delivered to him, and his blood pressure stabilized. That was a profound experience for me.”

Photo by Reginald Dodd

Back in Shreveport, groups of kids file into a large room to sit on the floor in front of a projector. Baker is up there perched on a chair, and she reads to them from the first Nola the Nurse® book while illustrations from the book display on the screen behind her: Nola chasing her dog Gumbo in an attempt to put a bandage on him. Watching her mom examining a patient at the hospital. Seated at a dining room table with her friend’s family, the mother resplendent in a traditional Kenyan dress.

 It’s an interactive reading, which means Baker peppers it with questions for the audience. One that doesn’t always go the way she wants is the question of what Nola “stands for” (the answer is New Orleans, LA).

“Caring!” says a little boy in a puffy black jacket.

“That’s a good answer, but not the one I’m looking for,” says Baker. “Someone else.” A girl with a big white bow in her hair suggests that Nola stands for helping people get better.

Photo by Reginald Dodd

Nola the Nurse is the 7-year-old star of a series of children’s books that Baker writes. “I could not find any books that would give my daughter an idea of what her mommy does,” she says, also noting the dearth of books featuring African American advanced healthcare practitioners. “And again, coming from my DNP at Chatham—I see a problem; I need to fix it.”

Nola wants to be a nurse practitioner like her mom, and she cares for sick baby dolls in her neighborhood. In each book, she discovers a new culture through traditional foods. There are Nola the Nurse workbooks and activity books, and Baker is working on an animated series. The first book has been translated into French and Spanish, with sales of the Spanish translation on track to surpass sales of the original English version. There’s also a Nola the Nurse doll, complete with dress, head gear and a nurse practitioner bag.

“I started thinking about getting my DNP after Katrina,” says Baker “I knew I needed to have more knowledge about systems and how to effect widespread change. A DNP would allow me to make a bigger impact in the healthcare arena.” “Chatham was the best fit for me because I couldn’t leave my area – we were still dealing with the ground zero catastrophe. I could take classes and still be able to meet the needs of my family and my community post-Katrina.”

At Chatham, her capstone project was on the efficacy of group visits for patients with diabetes. “The outcomes were amazing,” she ways. “Group visits can work really well. People feel good when there are others around them who are going through the same thing, and are often more likely to speak up.”

Baker was fast amassing expertise in house calls, and the requests for consults from other practitioners became overwhelming. In 2008, the year she earned her DNP, she created “The Housecall Course,” a two-day experience encompassing theory and practice (it has been since trimmed down to one day) for nurse practitioners interested in starting their own house call practices in mostly rural areas. Baker has trained over 500 nurses from across America. In 2008, she received the Entrepreneur of the Year by ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners magazine, which featured her on the cover. Baker has also been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (2017) and a fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (2012).

Baker speaks at conferences across the country, often to groups of nurse practitioners, and often about nurse entrepreneurship. But another topic close to her heart is health information technology (HIT). During Katrina, the office space that she had moved her house call practice into was flooded with water up to the ceiling.

“The miracle is that because I didn’t want to drag my patients’ charts into their homes, I’d been using my Palm Pilot to keep track of simple stuff, like their medicines, emergency contacts, whether they’d had a mammogram. It blew my mind that I had all that data and it solidified my belief in HIT. Hospitals couldn’t start because they’d lost their patients’ data, but I had it all right there.”

While Baker still makes some house calls, her primary job today is chief medical officer at Common Ground Health Clinic, a federally qualified healthcare clinic. “Most of our patients are low-income residents who may or may not have insurance or be able to pay,” she says. “I’m still serving my community, but now I have funding and structure. I have other leaders around me and we put our heads together. It’s nice to have that collaboration to effect greater change in this impoverished community.”

Course spotlight: Wines, Ciders, and Mead

The Falk School of Sustainability Master of Arts in Food Studies’s course Wines, Ciders, and Mead (FST512) has some things in common with your canonical graduate seminar. The instructor—Sally Frey, MFA, Ph.D.—is eminently qualified, having worked as a master sommelier (Frey is also a chef who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris). Five students are seated around a conference table on a brisk early winter morning, with another student at the podium, in front of, there it is—a PowerPoint presentation.

Her name is Danielle San Filippo, MAFS ’18, and she is showing photographs and reporting on a pear cider that she made. Listen:

“I wanted to let them ripen a little bit more so they’d press more juice. In retrospect it may not have been the best idea to let them get really sweet and sugary when you’re looking to get a dry cider (laughs). I took them home, and I decided to use the process Mike (Sturges, proprietor of a local cider collective, who was a guest speaker) shared with us – which is where you essentially juice the pears, right, we all had our different styles, mine was to use my juicer–and then mix the pulp back into the juice and press it again, and that way you’ll get this really concentrated flavor. That was a really bad idea, (class laughs) because I am not strong enough to press all that juice back out again. Essentially what happened was that I ended up with a really thick situation there. You guys can see all of this here, (gestures at screen) is the extra pulp that I was trying to mix back in together and press through. So in retrospect what I would do is just use the juice and sacrifice a little bit of the pear flavor. I also used a champagne yeast, but mine was a wine yeast as opposed to a beer one, because I had planned to use the champagne beer yeast that Mike gave us and luckily tried it first to get it activated and it was dead. So since I was already in the middle of this, I just grabbed what I had bought for one of my meads. That got me wondering – does that make this a pear wine now?”

“Technically no, because the alcohol content’s too low,” says Frey.

Danielle continues. “By November fifth, there was still a good bit of sediment, so I decided to go ahead and let it settle and then rack it, and it only produced those two bottles right there.”

“So there was that much sediment?” asks Frey.

“There was that much sediment. In fact, it was like pear sauce! I think overall in terms of making the cider I wanted to make, it didn’t get quite as dry as I like, but the flavor of pears definitely stands out. I think using the Eden Hall pears was a good choice, and I’m glad I tried this the way Mike said to, that we can all know not to do that (class laughs) moving forward.”

“We just don’t have the equipment to do that,” points out Frey.

“Right, right, if my juicer would have made the juice that I needed, it would have been fine. Anyway, I’m excited for you guys to try the perry (,” says Danielle.


What’s impressive is the consistent reflection: in retrospect, she says, and that got me wondering. Because as hands-on as this class is, Frey equips her students with the theoretical knowledge and collaborative spirit that effectively makes them artisans—even if just for the semester.

danielle

According to the syllabus, FST512 “provides a detailed study of the world of wines, grape varieties, ciders and mead,” and the word world seems carefully chosen indeed. Not only does it deal with global (and local) events, trends, and implications, but for every question you might expect in a course like this—what is so special about Chateau d’Yquem?—it goes snooping into other subjects, like history (What are some of the ways that Prohibition changed the way Americans ate?), technology (What type of bottle closure is the most sustainable?), psychology (What influence would a high score in a magazine like Wine Spectator have on how you choose a wine?), and biology (According to Giovanni Ruffa, it would be ironic if the world’s vineyards managed to survive the phylloxera epidemic only to be decimated by this trend toward what he calls “homologation.” What might be the consequences for bio-diversity?)

Students discuss wine journalism; marketing; and laws related to alcohol consumption, production, and distribution. They read texts and watch documentaries. They’ve visited Apoidea Apiary and Soergel Orchards, and guest speakers included Michael Sturges, proprietor of a local cider collective; Holly Harker from Subarashii Kudamono, an Asian pear orchard; and alumnus Michael Foglia MAFS ’16, who presented research that he did for local distillery Wigle Whiskey (which has teamed up with Chatham before).

After the presentations, the class moves downstairs to the spacious lodge kitchen. One by one, students pry caps off the bottles they’ve brought in, and pour samples for Frey and their classmates.

glass

Students report on their ingredients (“The honey comes from Maple Valley Farms near Ross Park Mall. I called to find out more about their practices. They are not using certified naturally grown methods but they use organic practices for beekeeping.”), tasting (“I think you taste ginger in the end. I can feel that kind of burning sensation, which is a bad way to put it, but it’s good.”), their processes (“I ran into a few issues with temperature because I’m in the dorms. I wasn’t able to regulate the temperature. I wrapped my little blanket around it.”) and plans (“I’m gonna bring it home for Thanksgiving and have my family try it. They’ve never had mead!”).


Assignment: Write a 3-5-page proposal for a “Sustainable Beverage (multiple categories may be included) Tasting Fundraiser.” You will have an imaginary $400 budget to get you started and the event is to take place from 7:00 – 9:00 PM on a Saturday evening. The only requirement is that it should be “fun and educational.”  Be specific with any items that you would purchase for the event and think through all the details from a sustainability lens. You will present your concept to the group and we will debate the best concept.


The course capstone is the final, semester-long project. Students pick a research topic related to local or global cider, mead, wine, sake, or honey to be presented to the group along with an essay and photo documentation of the fermentation/production process, if applicable. The goal is for the final project to be used as a portfolio piece.

For her final project, Danielle is making four different types of mead. “Modern mead-making uses chemical-based accelerants,” she says, “but I wanted to figure out how to make dry, semi-sweet, and sweet mead just by altering the amount and type of honey and yeast.”

“Lots of classes in the Falk School focus on group work,” says Danielle, “so this class is unique in that it’s focused on individual work, but then we all come together for three hours each week and work as a group to solve problems. The structure gave me time to think through my preconceptions and then come to class and be challenged.”


Image Text: Tips for Homebrewers Students from FST512 share their secrets: 1. Taste. Make sure your ingredients taste amazing to start with. 2. Sanitize. Make sure your materials and environment are very clean, or else everything you make is going to have a funk to it. 3. Document. If you’re doing this on an at-home scale, you probably won’t be able to reproduce what you did in a given batch–but if you have notes and photographs, you can get much closer.

Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.

 

disaster relief in nepal

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Recorder.

It  can be hard to access healthcare in Nepal, says Chatham nursing student, Devin Corboy ‘18. “It’s one of the poorest countries in the world. It’s mostly rural, so access is limited by time and terrain. And if it’s not free or almost free, clients just don’t have the resources to pay.” Devin also points to a shortage of providers (“Doctors aren’t well paid—it’s not as prestigious there as it is here. They work around the clock and it’s often necessary for them to hold several positions”) and—literally—energy (“With rolling blackouts, they spend long periods of time without electricity—often 12-14 hours per day.”)

That’s in the best of times.

But on April 25, 2015, Devin woke to news of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. Approximately 9,000 people were killed and more than 21,000 injured.  Devin and his wife had spent time there the previous fall, made friends, and fallen in love with the region. Devin—a student in Chatham’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC—knew that he had to help. Just over two weeks later, a second earthquake killed at least 153 people and injured more than 3,200.  That was the day Devin arrived in Nepal.

“In third-world trauma environments, scope of practice is directly proportional to your knowledge and level of comfort.”

His Nepali friends had told him the only way to reliably bring in supplies was to carry them in himself, so he showed up with over 100 pounds of medical supplies. “The airstrip was lined with cargo containers with food and other resources from countries who wanted to help,” he recalls. “But the government couldn’t release the supplies because of their regulation requirements. They had to register it. So much food sent over there never made it to anyone because it went bad.”

“When I arrived, my friend drove me to a community health clinic, where I saw people lined up out the door. Suturing and setting broken bones and dislocated limbs aren’t typical nursing practices in the US, but in third-world trauma environments, your scope of practice is directly proportional to your knowledge and level of comfort,” Devin says. “We worked with the highest degree of sterility possible using the supplies I carried from the US. We worked in the street, day and night, through heat and rain, under temporary tarps and in tents because damage to the hospital made it unsafe. Patients arrived on overcrowded buses. Three people per seat wasn’t infrequent, and you’d see men, women, and children hanging off the roofs.” It wasn’t uncommon for patients to arrive in need of critical treatment due to accidents caused by this method of travel that was both unsafe and unavoidable.

tents

After a couple of weeks, Devin and a guide loaded up five yaks with life-saving provisions and set forth to Thame, a village in the Everest mountain region that had been all but wiped out. They made what was normally a five-day trek to the village in two days, hiking 12-hour days carrying 50-60 pounds of supplies.

loading up yaks

When they arrived, they saw that one building was left standing, the medical clinic was gone, and people were living openly on the streets. “It was the monsoon season, cold and rainy,” says Devin. “No one had tents. We spent much of our time passing out temporary shelters and tarps.”

Nepal, Take 2

Devin returned home after just over three weeks, but in November, he and his wife returned to contribute through the All Hands disaster response effort. They were there for almost two months. “I had to delay my entry into the BSN program,” said Devin, “but Chatham said no problem, we’ll contact all your instructors, and we’ll figure it out.”

Much of the work in Devin’s second trip focused on demolition and rebuilding efforts, but it wasn’t long before his medical skills were called into action. The Project Director created the position of First Aid and Medical Curriculum Coordinator for him, and among his initiatives was to bring in anti-venom medicine. In the eight months since the earthquake, snakes—most of which were poisonous—had made their homes in all the debris. “There was a high probability that someone would get bitten and die,” Devin said. He coordinated with project partners in the UK to get the anti-venom. “It took about two and a half weeks for it to get here,” he says. “Meanwhile, we were seeing about six baby snakes each day, and thinking ‘oh boy, where’s Mama?’”

Eventually, Devin wants to open a community health clinic in West Africa. He envisions a solar-powered clinic focused on sustainable community health and education that can also provide emergency medical capabilities. He views his experiences in Nepal as simultaneously good training and a valuable expansion of perspective.

“I saw how spoiled we are,” he says. “I was able to bring over pre-sterilized gauze pads and Nepali healthcare providers couldn’t believe how easy they were to use. The way they’d do it is to cut a piece of gauze, heat it to a temperature that kills bacteria, maybe rest it on dirty pants to fold it, tape it to the wound, if they even had tape. In the U.S., we have all these supplies that don’t even exist in Nepal, and we toss them into the garbage when they fall on the floor or the package doesn’t look right. We treated at least 300 people with supplies equivalent to two days worth of what we throw away here. And the mentality of receiving healthcare here is so different,” Devin continues. “They were so appreciative of every single thing we were able to do. In their eyes, it’s not our duty, and it’s not their right.”

Eye care in the Pediatric emergency room

 

 

global food garden at Eden Hall Campus

global-food-garden_crop

The idea started in the “Food Culture and History” course taught by Alice Julier, PhD, Program Director and Associate Professor in the Master of Arts Food Studies program in Chatham’s Falk School of Sustainability & Environment.

“As part of the course, students are assigned a region of the world, and they research the cuisine and culinary practices of a part of it,” says Alice. “What I’ve found over the years is that they need to talk about the ingredients that go into those cuisines. Imagine places that consume a lot of rice, potatoes, corn—those staple crops define cuisines. So now, we focus on the agriculture as much as the culture.”

Thus was the Global Food Garden born. It’s a fenced-in 26,205 sq. feet, right by the Lodge, north of the old glass greenhouse. The Garden’s current caretaker, Jenalee Schenk, is a two-time Chatham alumna, having graduated in 2010 with a BA in Professional Communication and Visual Arts, and in 2012 as a member of the first cohort of the Master of Arts in Food Studies program.

Some of the Global Food Garden’s highlights:

Latin American garden
• Purple and pink Peruvian potatoes
• Ten varieties of chiles
• Tomatillos
• Jicama
• Mexican midget tomatoes
• Mexican sunflowers
• Epazote (an herb that aids digestion)
• Cape gooseberries, also known as ground cherries

Mexican sunflowers
Mexican sunflowers

“One of our students from Guatemala wanted to try a traditional meso-American agro-forestry crop design,” says John R. Taylor, PhD, assistant professor of Sustainable Agroecology. “We had been looking for a place to plant corn, so we decided to do it as a traditional ‘three sisters garden’ from Native American culture.” The three sisters are corn, beans, and squash. Corn shades the beans and provides a pole for their vines to climb. Beans provide nitrogen for the corn and help to stabilize the plants; and the squash provides a heavily shaded ground cover to prevent soil moisture from evaporating.

John walks me through other field experiments that the students have set up. “It looks like the Brandywine tomatoes are susceptible to early blight,” he says. “But that’s farming, right? You’re constantly experimenting.” Students are evaluating not only eight different varieties of tomatoes, but also methods of spacing them—double vs. single row, high density, vs. lower density.

Ethiopian garden
Teff is a traditional Ethiopian grain crop with tiny little seeds, and right now it looks like elegant, long, brown fronds taking a sweeping bow. “It was really beautiful until it rained really hard and all fell over,” laughs John. Also featured in the Ethiopian garden:

• Collard greens
• Ethiopian ground pepper
• Herbs and spices including cilantro and black cumin
• An Abyssinian red banana that came from e-bay. “It doesn’t really have an edible banana, and is mostly used for fiber,” he says. “But during times of food shortage, you can eat the interior of the stem. It’s edible-ish.”

Abyssinian red banana
Abyssinian red banana

Pan-Asian garden
“We have some Thai crops, some Chinese crops,” says John. “A lot of what we’re doing here is new to us. For instance, this pink Thai tomato looks like it’s starting to ripen, but I’m not really sure when it’s ripe.”

• Sesame
• Lemongrass
• Adzuki beans
• Asian varieties of eggplants
• Different varieties of peppers
• Thai basil
• Bunching onions
• Thai baby watermelons. “I was trying to get them to grow up this trellis, but they seem to just want to trail. Maybe they’ll help suppress some of the weeds,” says John.

Thai baby watermelon
Thai baby watermelon

The ranges of varieties are part of the research component of the Global Food Garden. “We’re looking at not only interspecies but also intraspecies crop variety,” says John. “For example, here we’re comparing two varieties of cabbage – Chinese and Napa. We’re looking at criteria like weight, flavor, and disease/insect resistance. These Napa cabbage are like little insect motels. The leaves are loose enough that they just get in there. They’re beautiful, but not very insect resistant,” he laughs.

The Global Food Garden is also hosting three different verities of rice – a Japanese sushi variety, a variety called Carolina Gold that was brought by enslaved people to the southern US in 1700s, and Russian variety called Duborskian. “Rice doesn’t need to be grown in a paddy, and we’re trying to see if we can propagate it here,” says Alice. “We are a world of immigrants, and we migrate.”

What are the plans for the crops grown in the Global Food Garden? “In the fall, we’ll use some of the crops in different classes, for example, in a fermentation course. I’ll probably focus on medicinal herbs,” says Alice. Some of the plants will be moved into the greenhouse. In tropical climates, crops such as tomatoes are perennials; not so here.

But that comes later. “The first thing we’re going to do is have a feast when the new students get here,” says Alice. “It’s one of the ways we share what we’re doing with our new students and with our returning students. Take everything out of the garden and have a fantastic party.”

Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies in the Falk School of Sustainability emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.

award-winning filmmaker Chester Lampman, MFA Film & Digital Technology ’12

Chester Lampman and his wife Mary at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival
Chester Lampman and his wife Mary at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival

If you think of award-winning filmmakers, Chester Lampman, MFA Film and Digital Technologies ’14, may not be the first to come to mind, but make no mistake—he’s the real deal. His thesis documentary “The Marquee on Main Street” was accepted to six film festivals, and also won a Recognition Award for Short Documentary from the Hollywood International Independent Film Awards in May 2016.

“The Marquee on Main Street” is a short documentary centered on three small, independent theaters in and around Pittsburgh: the Strand in Zelienople, the Oaks in Oakmont, and the Hollywood in Dormont. Chester interviews the owners about the challenges they face keeping these small theaters afloat in this era of multiplexes that use digital platforms. “Hollywood is essentially forcing theaters to go digital,” he says. “It makes it so much harder for single-screen theaters to get movies.” View trailer here:

“These places are community treasures,” Chester continues. “Once they’re gone, they’re much more difficult to bring back, if they even can bring it back.” He cites the Oaks as an example. “The Oaks was closed and brought back as a performance art space. They still show some movies, but on a much rarer basis. They do what they have to do to survive, but the space is still there.”

“The Marquee on Main Street is an award-winning short documentary by independent filmmaker Chester Lampman that explores the historic single screen cinema experience. Weaving a story of rediscovery with profiles of several independent neighborhood movie theaters, the film celebrates their histories, examines their challenges, and highlights the people that keep them going. All in an effort to prove that these often overlooked community treasures still have much to offer the movie going public. After all, one screen is all you really need.” – Trailer for “The Marquee on Main Street”

When Chester first he came to Pittsburgh after attending University of Pittsburgh Bradford, he landed a job in independent video production. Then he joined the army, and after three years in active duty, returned to find how much the film industry had changed. “Everything was digital, everything was high definition,” he says. “The mental skill was still there, but my technical skills had become outdated. I would have had to start over in the industry at minimum wage, and I wasn’t about to do that.” Instead, he got a job outside the film industry.

Soon after that, he came to a friend’s graduation at Chatham. “I heard people graduating with an MFA in film, and thought maybe I should look into that.”

He liked what he saw. In 2012, Chester enrolled in the MFAFDT program. In order to take advantage of the GI Bill, he had to be enrolled full-time, and he also worked full time to support his family. “I took three classes each semester and did project stuff on the weekends,” he laughs. It took him two years to complete the program.

“People come into the program with all different levels of expertise,” he adds. “I knew some of the theoretical stuff, but needed the technical expertise. I’d never turned on a Mac before. I’m sitting there, trying to find the power button—everyone was supportive,” he says.

“I could have gone to to some workshops if all I had wanted was a skills upgrade,” Chester says. “But actually earning an MFA was a much better use of the time and money.”

Chester dates his interest in documentaries to his junior year in high school. “I took a specialized course on the Civil War, and the teacher showed the Ken Burns documentary,” he says. “I was fascinated by it. It was the first time I realized you could learn and be entertained at the same time, and that it was a function fo the images, the music—all the elements.”

Chester was also attracted to the do-more-with-less aspect of documentary making. “Filmmaking is a team sport,” he says. “When you’re making a documentary, you can use a much smaller team.” (In fact, Chester’s team was him and one other person—at most.)
“There are also avenues for documentaries,” he says. “It’s easier to get people to see your work. Ten or 15 years ago, we didn’t have that.”

“If I were talking to someone thinking about coming into the program, I’d say to prepare to take everything seriously. Don’t look at the project work just as project work—treat it as an example of your ability, and recognize that you’re building your portfolio from day one. If you take attitude from the start, you’ll be building your portfolio all along. That’s how I look at my film—it’s proof of my ability. Hopefully I can use it as a stepping stone for other films I want to make.”

“Will I ever make a Hollywood feature film? Hell no. It’s never going to happen,” he laughs. “Documentary is interesting to me because you get to pick something you have an interest in, research it, find a unique and interesting way to tell a story, and hopefully engage the audience. I like to learn when I make something.”

Chatham’s accelerated, one-year MFA in Film & Digital Technology program is one of the few accelerated MFA programs in the United States that includes both film and digital technology. Focused on advanced project work in a range of media production areas, principally film/video, interactivity, and the web, it is designed to extend and develop students’ experiences and knowledge in the field of media production and their understanding of creative and critical practice within the media industries.

 

 

undergraduate connects with local nonprofit 412 food rescue

natalie copy
Natalie Jellison ’17 (left) with Chatham student Charlise Oliver ’18 on a 412 Food Rescue run

According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food produced in the United States never gets eaten.

According to local non-profit Just Harvest, of the 1.2 million people living in Allegheny County in 2012, nearly one in seven faced food insecurity.

According to Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of local non-profit  412 Food Rescue, Chatham undergraduate Natalie Jellison ’17 is the brains behind mobilizing local universities to help solve the problem.

“She was the one who heard about us and thought it would be a great idea to rescue food at Chatham,” says Lizarondo. “And she did. She not only broached the conversation with the Office of Sustainability at Chatham, she put together the stakeholders that made it happen.”

Jellison credits a class at Chatham for sparking the idea. “We had to do projects in my Sustainability and Social Justice class,” she says. “and someone mentioned 412 Food Rescue. I thought that food was a good issue to focus on, since it’s the basis of everything. I did some research into 412 Food Rescue and started volunteering.”

Chatham students Cat Woodson ’16 and Diarra Clarke ’17 doing first official run with Anderson, Giant Eagle and Zipcar.

Since 2015, 412 Food Rescue has been “rescuing” unsellable but perfectly good food from retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, and other organizations, and delivering it to soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, schools, and other community programs.

Jellison arranged a meeting with Dr. Whitney and representatives from Chatham’s dining services, Parkhurst (Chatham’s dining services partner), and Zipcar. “Everyone was like, if you want this, you can have it,” she says. Parkhurst and the Office of Sustianability split the cost of a Zipcar membership so that students without cars could also volunteer to deliver food, and Zipcar waived the hourly fee for Chatham students on 412 Food Rescue runs.

Jellison started doing food runs on Saturday mornings, picking up food at Anderson, stopping by a nearby grocery store to collect its donation (“it’s on the way”), and dropping it off at Murray Towers, a high-rise for seniors run by the Allegheny County Housing Authority.

Maggie Fleiner '19 during the second run.
Maggie Fleiner ’19 during the second run.

“Volunteering is once per week, for an hour, at 11:30 on Saturday morning,” she says. “Right now, about seven Chatham students participate. I want to grow that number this fall to get it more organized.”

412 Food Rescue sees Chatham as a model and catalyst for bringing the program to other universities. Jellison—who will be graduating with a self-designed major in environmental justice and a minor in business and is also pursuing a certificate in women’s leadership—is currently interning there, working to do just that.

“It’s cool,” she says. “I think that at a young age I’m doing a lot, and it’s exciting.”

interview with Chatham President David Finegold, DPhil

DF_2

On July 1, 2016, David L. Finegold, DPhil, became the 19th president in Chatham’s 147-year history. Dr. Finegold has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. Read more about Dr. Finegold and the presidential search process here

A renowned scholar and educational innovator, Dr. Finegold has dedicated his career to education reform, the design of high-performance organizations, and extensive research on education and skill-creation systems around the world. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992.

CG: Dr. Finegold, thank you for your time today. Can you tell me what your first impressions of Chatham were?

DF: They’ve been wonderful, really. First, I’m so impressed by the different campuses, the beauty of the historical Shadyside Campus, the arboretum, the tremendous architecture, and then the exciting new Eastside location, right next to Google in this growing high-tech part of the city. Then to get out to Eden Hall and see the huge promise there and the excitement of being the first campus of its kind in the country, maybe the world, as a home for the Falk School of Sustainability is just great.

The second thing is the people. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly, from the trustees to the faculty to the students I’ve met. It feels like it will be an extremely welcoming community for myself and for Sue to come to.

The third thing is the level and rate of innovation. I’ve already learned about “Chatham Time” and been impressed by the number of things that the University’s been able to accomplish and how quickly they’ve been done. Having been at big universities like Rutgers and USC, the idea of transforming the whole structure of the university, going coed, changing gen-ed requirements, all at the same time, are things we still would have been planning at those universities, much less having done them all at once. I’m very impressed by that level of taking things on.

I see my role in these first few years as less about charting major new changes in direction than about seeing through some of those key things that have been initiated so that we can really capitalize on those. ”

CG: What was it about Chatham that attracted you to this position?

DF: Certainly all the things I just mentioned were big attractors. That willingness to take on new challenges and to continually innovate is a real fit with the things I’ve done in my career. The other thing I liked about Chatham is that I’ve always thought that if I had the opportunity to lead a college or university, I’d like to do it at a place the size of Chatham, where it’s possible to get to know all of the faculty and staff and to get to really interact with the students. At a large university these days that’s very hard for a president to do.

CG: Looking back at your career, what experiences would you say have best prepared you to be president at Chatham?

DF: I’ve had a chance throughout my career to focus on promoting inclusion, access, and true equality for students of all types. For example, when I led the School for Management and Labor Relations, we were one of the national leaders on issues around diversity. We had a Center for Women and Work, and we were the host of the Gender Parity Council, which was an innovative organization that New Jersey set up to try to ensure things like equal pay for equal work.

At Rutgers, Douglass College went coed, and we had a lot of the same concerns that I know many students and alumnae have had here at Chatham. I’ve been able to hear those very legitimate concerns but also to see the huge benefits for young women that came about thanks to that transition and the fact that we could still be known as a place that’s a champion for gender equality and for looking at issues around women in all aspects of work. I think we can do the very same things here.

“One of the things I hope we’ll be doing at Chatham is focusing on lifelong learning, opportunities for people to engage with us and find that they can continually refresh themselves.”

CG: What do you see as the top priorities for your first year?

DF: I see my role in these first few years as less about charting major changes in direction than about seeing through some of those key things that have been initiated so that we can capitalize on those. I would say there are three or four that are top on my list. One would be realizing the sustainability vision, and particularly finding the best ways to get the Eden Hall Campus to critical mass. So finding the best ways to do that, working with everyone to figure out the academic vision and how we get the resources for it — that will be one of the key things.

The second one is seeing through the reorganization of the Schools and undergrad education, completing the implementation of the new gen ed curriculum and the Chatham Plan; helping each of the Schools to realize its potential; and working with the faculty to put all that in place.

A third area where I think I can immediately add value is expanding the numbers of international students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Chatham has had a long history of being an international institution with the Global Focus program and creating opportunities for students and faculty to go abroad, but I think in terms of diversity of the student body there’s still a great deal of opportunity to add to that.

And the final thing is around engagement with our undergraduate alumnae and graduate alumni. I’d like to get out to meet, visit, and talk with them. How can we serve our alumni better? How we can help someone be a mentor, offer an internship, hire a graduate, or connect people to an issue they’re passionate about – say sustainability, or health and wellness, where Chatham has so many exciting things going on?

CG: What do you consider to be the role of higher education today?

DF: That’s a big question. I believe that anybody, regardless of financial circumstance, ought to have the ability to go to their best-fit college or university, and as they benefit throughout their career, they can pay that back. Having a degree in today’s knowledge economy is increasingly the minimum you need for a successful career, and we’re seeing that it’s not enough to get that first degree; you’re probably going to have to go back over the course of your life to get another degree or perhaps shorter continuing education. One of the things I hope we’ll be doing at Chatham is focusing on lifelong learning, opportunities for people to engage with us and find that they can continually refresh themselves.

 

 

Sniffing around brooklyn

_MG_0139---Version-2

Note: This story originally appeared in the Chatham University Spring 2016 Recorder alumni magazine. 

As with so many New York stories— at least in the movies—it began with a gun. A 3,200-pound custom-built breakfast cereal-puffing gun, in fact, that traveled the city demonstrating how grains get puffed into cereal. It was a mobile exhibition called BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Cereal, the year was 2013, and the gunslinger was the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD). In 2014, MOFAD moved into a space in Brooklyn, began thinking about onsite exhibitions, and hired Catherine Piccoli, a 2012 graduate of Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies program, as program associate.

For Catherine, a social and cultural historian who focuses on food, it’s an ideal match. She would be the first to tell you she’s felt that click before. After completing a bachelor’s in social and cultural history at Carnegie Mellon, her next steps weren’t clear. “I had been thinking and reading deeply about food,” she says, “but neither culinary school nor working in a restaurant appealed to me. I didn’t know what the other options were. One day I saw a newspaper ad for the food studies program, and it was like a light bulb—this is me, this is what I want to do. I can study food and continue to focus on history and social and cultural phenomena.”

In the food studies program, Catherine focused on writing and communication and explored the interplay of food and history through culture. She completed internships at the Heinz History Center, at an environmental radio show, and at a community food pantry.

During the program I was constantly challenged,” she says. “Things that I had thought were constantly being blown open. Not just about food, but about cultures, poverty, and social justice. I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. History, culture, science and technology, production, commerce–because of the Food Studies program, I feel like I can speak knowledgeably about all of these things, and I’m confident bringing them into my job.”

In the summer of 2012, Catherine moved to Brooklyn. She began contributing her research skills as a volunteer at MOFAD, and the rest is history—the history of food and culture that Catherine researched, documented, and helped craft into MOFAD’s first on-site exhibition, Flavor: Making It and Faking It. Flavor: Making It and Faking It is a collection of interactive stories and experiences that build toward a holistic understanding of the modern flavor industry. It’s a huge topic that has been thoughtfully calibrated to the space available—a cavernous, one-room, 3000-square foot former car park.

2Flavor_Wheel_vector_noflavors[1]

The exhibition starts with a short video about how the nose and mouth work together to produce flavor. Taste refers to what we perceive through the tongue; flavor refers to the interplay of taste and smell. In fact, most flavor comes from the aroma of food when it’s in your mouth. As you chew, aroma molecules drift toward the back of your throat, up an airway that connects to your nose, and are processed and received by receptors in the brain, just as though they had been inhaled through your nose.

EXHIBIT: LEARNING TO FAKE IT: VANILLA AND THE BIRTH OF THE FLAVOR INDUSTRY
“Initially, you could only get vanilla from the bean of the vanilla orchid, grown primarily in Mexico, which flowers for only one day,” says Catherine. She gestures at a vanilla orchid under a glass bel and introduces Vanessa the Vanilla Orchid. “Taking care of her is one of my duties,” she says. “I spent a lot of time on the phone with Larry at Larry’s Orchards in Michigan.”

In the 1870s, two German chemists realized that vanillin—the chemical that gave vanilla its aroma—could also be made from pine tree bark. And from wood pulp, from clove oil, from paper pulp, and, from coal. That meant that vanilla had gone from being a rare and carefully cultivated substance to something that could be mass-produced. The exact same chemical compound is found in the vanilla bean and produced in the lab. Today it’s the most popular flavor in the world.

vanillin

The exhibition also features a large tablet-making machine, of the sort that MOFAD used to make small tablets of different flavors that are available in tablet-dispensing machines throughout the exhibition. Visitors can sample and compare a vanilla bean-based tablet with a synthetic vanillin-based tablet. “Lots of people prefer the synthetic one, because it’s what they’re used to,” says Catherine.

EXHIBIT: UMAMI: SEAWEED AND THE DISCOVERY OF A NEW TASTE
Umami is the most recently identified primary taste whose Japanese name translates to something akin to deliciousness. A Japanese chemist discovered MSG (monosodium glutamate) as he was trying to replicate the flavor of an edible seaweed. “Glutamate intensifies the savory taste of food,” says Catherine, and beginning in the 1920s, MSG was marketed to food manufacturers and cafeterias as a way of adding flavor back to foods post-processing.

The Japanese army was also interested in using it to make bland, nutritious food taste good. “This is the moment in our story when the flavor industry and the food industry start becoming inseparable,” says Catherine.

Tablets allow visitors to compare umami tastes of tomato, mushroom, and seaweed with manmade

EXHIBIT: TASTE MAKERS: THE ART & SCIENCE OF FLAVOR CREATION
Along the back wall of the exhibition is one of its biggest draws, the Smell Synth—a kind of control panel where visitors can create and experience combinations of smells. It’s a simplified version of the kind of machine that allows olfaction scientists to mix and sample new smells. MOFAD asked David Michael, a Philadelphia flavor company, to choose no more than 20 compounds that visitors could use to create as many smells as possible. Because the compounds have names like “ethyl acetate” and “gamma hexalactone,” Catherine helped come up with user-friendly descriptors of how the compounds smelled, including green, leaf; cheesy vomit; earthy, hazelnut; and boozy.

The Smell Synth houses 19 glass containers, each of which contains a scent chemical compound. When you press a button, the machine opens a valve and blows scented air through a pipe to your nose. Pressing several buttons at once allows you to combine aromas to mimic a common smell. Above the control panel are “recipes” for aroma chords (Maple, brown + butter, sweet cream = pancakes). Catherine helped to “write” these recipes, too.

kid

Through the lens of flavor, the exhibition invites us to consider broader concepts. In this historical and cultural moment, it’s easy to decry the artificial as inferior to the organic, but the synthesis of vanillin brought the sweet, beloved taste of vanilla to people all over the world. We’re also invited to consider the divide between what is “natural”and what is “artificial,” and how those concepts might relate to what we call “real.” “I think there’s a lot of confusion around food,” Catherine says. “Chemicals is not a scary word. Chemicals make up the sky, my mom, soup! The same chemical is the same chemical, whether it’s found in a food or in a test tube.”

Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies in the Falk School of Sustainability emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement comes to Pittsburgh Public Schools

Brashear High School Food Service Employees are starting their day with the power of protein! Cafeteria Manager, Kathy Harris (center), uses the #milklife campaign to get kids to drink more unflavored milk at lunch.
Brashear High School Food Service Employees are starting their day with the power of protein! Cafeteria Manager, Kathy Harris (center), uses the #milklife campaign to get kids to drink more unflavored milk at lunch.

Simple changes in the environment can lead to healthier lunchtime choices. That’s the thinking behind the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM), a program started in 2009 by researchers at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition. In a study funded by Highmark, Chatham graduate student Dani Lyons, Master of Arts in Food Studies ’16 teamed up with food services dietician Elizabeth Henry to bring it to 19,000 children across all 56 elementary, middle, and high schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system in 2015. This work comprised Dani’s Master’s thesis, and her final report can be read here.

Questions of who has access to what kind of food play out in an interesting manner in public schools.” – Dani Lyons, MAFS ’16

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement borrows a concept from behavioral economics: hot-state vs. cold-state decision making. In cold-state decision making, we’re more likely to weigh pros and cons and consider long-term consequences of our actions. In contrast, hot-state decision-making favors the quickest, easiest, most immediately satisfying option. It tends to be the default setting in children, exacerbated during periods of time pressure and academic and social stress, like in a school lunchroom.

SLM aims to game hot-state decision making by making healthy choices more visible and more appealing. To that end, Dani and Elizabeth worked with local school food services staff to implement four initiatives, one per week for four consecutive weeks:

1. Menu boards
Large, wet-erase black whiteboards placed at the beginning of the lunch line let students know what’s available before they confronted it later in the line. This built-in pause offers an opportunity for them to consider what they might like to eat, lessening the chance that they’ll make a spur-of-the-moment decision.  “Research suggests that if you prime students for a meal advertised to be delicious, students are more likely to eat the healthy food to take because they expect it to taste good,” says Dani.

2. Cool names
Giving foods fun, memorable names can increase their appeal to students. Schools were given signs with photos and slogans advertising Game-Changing Green Beans, #BOSS Baked Beans, and Smoky Chipotle Bean Salsa. Some schools invited students to name foods themselves. 
beechwood elementary signs3. Putting white milk first
At least one-third of all milk in each cooler was white milk, and it was the first in each line or in the front of the cake. Lunchroom banners and posters advertised the “MilkLife” campaign.

4. Improving visibility of fruits and vegetables
Schools were given tablecloths, fruit bowls and “fruit chutes”—wire chutes that hold and dispense whole fruits—and other ways to emphasize fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria line were suggested.
university prep fruits veggies

Before the interventions, Dani conducted an 8-hour training session for PPS food service mangers and other staff members about the Smarter Lunchroom Movement, introducing them to the four interventions. There was also a one-hour follow-up training session.

Results
To assess the study’s efficacy, Dani interviewed ten food service managers, and the team gathered observational data pertaining to how well the lunchroom adhered to best practices at ten of the schools schools, and did before-and-after analyses of how much food from students’ plates was being thrown away, and of computerized food sales and ordering data.

Dani and Elizabeth found that in every area, scores increased from the baseline data to the follow-up data, by a minimum of 12.2% and at most, 38.6%. “Milk drinking increased,” says Dani, “as well as the proportion of white to flavored milk chosen. Vegetable choice increased, and we saw kids who chose more than one vegetable tended to eat them both.”

She points out that while they only collected follow-up data from 10 of the 57 schools, there’s reason to believe that the other schools would also have seen an average increase in all areas as well, since all schools received the same training, materials, and instruction for implementation.

Dani acknowledges the challenges that schools face in getting students to make good lunchtime selections. “Half of the schools don’t have a kitchen,” she says. “And they don’t use plastic trays, so students have to carry their food. That’s another obstacle—kindergartners can’t carry their lunch in their hands.”

Tips for parents who are trying to get their kids to eat more healthily at home? “Managing serving size is probably the most effective thing you can do,” says Dani. “We know it’s economical to buy in bulk, but then we find ourselves eating out of the package. So divide trail mix into individual servings and store them that way. Also, when we use smaller serving utensils and smaller plates, we serve ourselves less. The opposite holds true, too—if you want your kids to eat more salad, buy larger salad prongs.”

Among her favorite courses in the Food Studies program, Dani counts U.S. Agricultural Policy (“We learned the Farm Bill inside and out and took a trip to DC to meet with lobbyists, researchers, and other people involved in the politics of food and agriculture.”) and The Politics of Chocolate (“We focused on labor practices; marketing; parallels with tea and coffee; and human rights. And I got to design, produce, and market my own chocolate bar, which was delicious.”). After graduation, she plans to work in school food administration or in school food policy at local and state levels. “That may sound very boring to some people,” Dani laughs. “But I find it fascinating.”

Learn more about the study at www.smarterlunchroompps.tumblr.com.