FoodMASTER program receives $1.27 million NIH grant

A $1.27 million grant to the East Carolina University FoodMASTER program will help middle school students learn mathematical and science concepts through activities based with food.

ECU nutrition science professors Melani Duffrin and Virginia Carraway-Stage will use the funds to create and test a FoodMASTER curriculum in seventh grade classrooms in eastern North Carolina. They will incorporate hands-on activities such as food preparation and handling to help students understand science, math and nutrition.

Duffrin said the new program will “help seventh grade teachers pull fresh math and science resources out of their bag.”

Dr. Melani Duffrin

“Food activities are a natural, fun way to help students apply math and science to their everyday lives,” she said.

The grant will also fund a FoodMASTER summer camp led by Jacqueline De Chabert-Rios (Hospitality Management), David Rivera (Hospitality Management) and Tammy Lee (Science Education).

Duffrin and Sharon Phillips, an Ohio elementary school teacher, created FoodMASTER in 1999, to bring difficult concepts to life through common household items such as measuring cups and spoons, cereal, fruits, vegetables and milk. A food-based curriculum for 3rd to 5th graders has already been developed.

The FoodMASTER program supports learning that stimulates interest in science and math, advances public understanding of health issues and encourages the next generation of health and science professionals. With an emphasis on reducing health disparities, the program’s K-12 projects target minorities and students in rural and underserved communities.

The grant funding comes from a 2011 Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources, a division of the National Institutes for Health.

The ECU Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, directed by Margaret Wirth, will support teacher training and outreach for the program. The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research, led by president Suzanne Wilkinson, will support the project’s teacher training component.

Learn more about FoodMASTER at www.FoodMASTER.org. For additional information about the project, contact Melani Duffrin at 252-328-5698 or duffrinm@ecu.edu.

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