Intervention to Reduce Pre-Adolescent Obesity: Christine Raper Shares Her Practicum Experience

With a background in psychology, education, leadership, and now public health, I have always had a passion for teaching others. Working previously with students in all grades of the K-12 sector and at colleges and universities, I have always been interested in how people learn information and apply the knowledge they have attained. With my personal and professional interests in tow, I was able to find a practicum experience that matched perfectly at the beginning of my second semester at Mailman.

In January 2012, I began my practicum at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School, a combined elementary and middle school located in the Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights. Working as an intern for the Parent Teacher Association’s Wellness Committee, I was able to work closely with the parents of elementary and middle school students to make changes that were both feasible and sustainable.

A major part of my work at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School was to revise the nutrition curriculum for elementary school students. Using the new MyPlate recommendations as a guide, I created a new nutrition curriculum and implemented it with the first graders, teaching three weeks of nutrition lessons to eager seven-year-olds. Working with the Wellness Committee, we also started the Budding Chefs program, which teaches elementary school students basic cooking skills to spark their interest in health and wellness. We also held our third annual KidFit event, an annual obesity awareness and prevention health fair open to the Washington Heights community.

After working with P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School for some time, I began to recognize the need for more programs that related to the middle school students. I was running out of time to start a program for the middle school students, so I decided that I would use my ideas as a proposal for my Master’s Thesis. As a Health Promotion track student (same as the Health Promotion Research and Practice certificate for all the first-years), I chose to write my thesis as an intervention proposal, focusing on the preadolescents in Hudson Heights. My master’s thesis, titled Life’s a PEACH (Parents, Educators and preAdolescents for Children’s Health) is a theory-guide and evidence-based tri-level intervention to decrease preadolescent obesity in Hudson Heights. Intervening on preadolescents, their parents, and school administration, the intervention program focuses on nutritional and physical activity changes that can be made at home, in school, and in the community.

As graduation is closing in, with less than two months until the big day, I have taken time to reflect on my experiences over the last two years at Mailman. My practicum opportunity working with the students, families, and administration at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School is one of the bright memories I will take with me after I leave this great city. To all the first year students: Choose how you spend your time wisely, and take in as many experiences as possible, because two years go by more quickly than you think.

Best wishes,

Christine

A Circus with Some Seriously Good Eats, Willow Yonika Reports on her Summer Practicum

I knew I had overcome a major barrier to my work this summer when Katie, the head cook came up to me one day on the job and out of the blue said she was so appreciative of the food she and her staff were working with this summer. She said it was like giving an artist proper tools- it excites them, and makes them want to create better art. We have been eating like kings here at the circus; the food has been incredibly fresh, tasty, and never lacking in creativity on the dish. The project I’m doing would be impossible if the head cook wasn’t on board though, so to have this confirmation made me breath a sigh of relief!

As I said I would at the end of the semester, I have been working for a traveling circus this summer, sourcing local, healthy food to the performers and staff of the troupe. Circus Smirkus is a youth circus based out of Greensboro, Vermont. It tours through six different states in the Northeast, and in a new initiative to go “green” I was hired to create a local food networking system to ease the process of accessing healthy food for this company. This is a challenge not only because we move locations every few days, but there are about 75 people to feed, three meals a day, and they are a hungry lot! The goal is to be able to support local economies and agriculture, while also providing the performers and crew with healthy options.

A goal of 30% local food was set at the beginning of the project in early June- I can happily report that I’m sitting at about 40%, which gives me a little breathing room for the whole summer. Some states have been easy to source from; others have been a challenge (hint, Massachusetts…). Some have great networks already set up, like farm-to-school systems, while others have nothing and I’m sourcing from individual farmers. Some people I have worked with have made it unbelievable easy, while others have been tricky to communicate with. It has been a challenging summer! But overall the project has gone over very well. The performers and staff love it, because they are eating well; the cooks love it, since they have great ingredients to work with (and per Katie we are within budget as well- we aren’t spending any more than last year so far!) the presenters love it, because it has given another angle for PR; the farmers and local food systems love it because it is an increase in business and essentially free advertising; and local food enthusiasts love it because it is supporting the cause!

Hope everyone is having a great summer. I know I am, but I’m looking forward to being able to use these new skills in the non-circus world soon. I hope to be able to apply what I’ve learned to other companies that serve food to their employees, and make it easier for them source great ingredients for a healthier population.

Happy July!

Willow

Talk about good food cred: Check out FarmPlate’s recent article about Circus Smirkus moving to local foods.