Many cooks improve the StEW

stewStudents studying nutrition at Flinders will soon be practising their health promotion skills on an easily accessible cohort of participants – their fellow students.

A new one-semester program, run by students of nutrition and dietetics, as well as health science students taking nutrition majors, will engage groups of other Flinders students in a program to encourage healthy eating.

Nutrition and dietetics senior lecturer Ms Kaye Mehta said Flinders Students Eat Well, or Flinders StEW, promises multiple benefits.

“There are a number of levels of objectives: one is to improve the nutritional wellbeing of university students, based on the evidence that students can be at risk of poor nutrition through the pressures of study, being time-poor, but also having less financial resources,” Ms Mehta said.

“We also aim to increase social connections through food, so that there are opportunities for social eating to overcome isolation, particularly for international students and students who have come in from the country,” she said.

“And for our nutrition students, we’re hoping to build up their health promotion skills.”

Using a peer leadership model, the 19 participating students will form five teams. Each team will identify a focus for their projects and then target groups of other students in the Flinders community to participate through advertising.

Second-year nutrition and dietetics student Clare Hannaford said that while students who are gym-users or residents of on-campus housing were obvious targets, the program would seek to engage with students from all parts of the University community.

Ms Mehta said that the program employs a peer leadership model, and draws on students from different year levels of undergraduate degrees, including Masters students, to increase the opportunities for mentoring and support.

She said the educational aspect of the program will not be too overt or up-front.

“What may attract people is the opportunity to eat together and cook together, because in the community a lot of promotion is done through the joy of eating together, and then implicit within this is education about healthy eating,” she said.

Ms Mehta said the youth of the project leaders and the participants should allow for easier engagement.

“We’re hoping that there will be a fun aspect to how they go about it, and that we will learn new things about the methodologies of working with young people.”

As part of the project, StEW leaders will be doing a needs and strengths assessment of university students, to find out their needs, issues and concerns, and to identify positive factors already existing in the University community that can be built upon.

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