HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Marjuyua Lartey-Rowser, registered dietitian and research scientist at the Institute of Child Nutrition, Applied Research Division (ICN, ARD), a research center of The University of Southern Mississippi's College of Health, works to ensure schools provide healthy meals and maintain strong student participation in meal programs.
Lartey-Rowser was instrumental in developing workshops used for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative. The initiative provides school nutrition directors tailored assistance and peer-to-peer mentoring. Last fall, the USDA partnered with ICN to pilot the program at the University of Mississippi for states in the Food Nutrition Services' (FNS) Southeast region - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"Team Up was the vision of USDA's Food Nutrition Services division to offer targeted technical assistance for school's operating under the National School Lunch Program," said Lartey-Rowser. "Based on the pilot's success, (USDA) Secretary Vilsack is championing the project and saying that it should be done in every state."
"Over 90 percent of the nation's schools are successfully achieving updated healthy meal standards," said Vilsack in a released statement. "The Team Up program allows the remaining schools still working to meet the standards to pair up and learn best practices from schools that are already successfully serving healthier meals. We will continue to do everything we can to support schools as they work to ensure our kids get the healthy start in life they deserve."
Lartey-Rowser was responsible for developing the Team Up training implemented on a regional basis. In November, the program will be introduced at the state level to child nutrition agencies. The initiative is another way the USDA and ICN is combating child hunger and obesity and improving the health and nutrition of the nation's children.
An essential aspect of the training is the peer-to-peer mentoring, said Lartey-Rowser. Mentors are school nutrition directors who success fully meet the standards of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
"I identified a problem management approach to mentoring, called the skilled helper model, which is used in counseling," said Lartey-Rowser. "It's not anything you see used in nutrition and food service to solve problems. The ultimate goal is to encourage participants to find solutions to the problems and then go home and be able to implement those solutions."
The Team Up workshop is comprised of general sessions, breakout sessions and an opportunity to network. Lartey-Rowser travelled to all but one FNS district to deliver the workshops and will have an essential role in implementing the workshops on a state level.
"The success of this program has been a shock," said Lartey-Rowser. "When you are planning you hope for the best and try to consider all of the possibilities, all the successes or failures that could come out of it, but I never thought that this plan, this model that I identified, would have such an impact on lives."
For information about the Southern Miss College of Health, visit http://www.usm.edu/health.