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UConn Nutritionists Develop New Tools to Fight Childhood Obesity
(Released: 03/21/01)

By Janice Palmer, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- University of Connecticut nutritionists hope to reduce childhood obesity with two products they have developed for Connecticut's classrooms.

Colleen Thompson and Ellen Shanley of UConn's nutritional sciences department, are authors of a new book called "Fueling the Teen Machine," and creators of an interactive web-based nutrition education game called "Rate Your Plate."

The nutrition education tools will be introduced at an open house on Thursday, March 22, sponsored by Connecticut Team Nutrition. The team members include: UConn's Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Connecticut State Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Teachers, school administrators and food service personnel have been invited to the event, which will be held from 3 - 5 p.m. at the Learning Corridor's Commons Cafeteria on Vernon Street in Hartford. Students who contributed and tested recipes for the web game will also be in attendance.

"Our goal is to empower children to make healthy eating choices in the schools," says Thompson, a UConn Cooperative Extension educator-in-residence. "Our experience has been that most schools are doing a good job of providing healthy meals. The harder part is getting kids to choose those meals, rather than spending their lunch money on potato chips and Gatorade."

"Fueling the Teen Machine" was written as a guidebook for teenagers but could also be used by classroom teachers, says Shanley. She is director of the UConn nutritional sciences department undergraduate dietetics program.

"This is not a textbook," she explains. "We wrote the book so it would be user-friendly to young people, while addressing contemporary issues, such as sports nutrition, eating disorders, weight management and vegetarianism."

A free copy of the book will be given to people attending the open house and copies will be sent to every teacher of family and consumer sciences teacher in the state. The books will also be sold for $12.95 at major bookstore chains and the UConn Co-op.

The interactive web-based game, "Rate Your Plate," is aimed at educating a younger audience. Students click on a food image, create a meal of choice, and the program determines whether or not healthy choices have been made. This website also provides other nutrition resources and a variety of healthy recipes tested in UConn's food laboratory. Samples of the recipes will be served during the open house. The website is located at www.team.uconn.edu.

Shanley and Thompson's work was funded by a $160,000 grant from the Connecticut State Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Team Nutrition program.

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