MTSU, Kroger partner to educate public about need to eat fruits, vegetables

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Lisa Sheehan-Smith, a professor of nutrition and food science

As Americans make New Year's resolutions to eat healthier meals, MTSU will be planning ways to help them fulfill those resolutions.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation, a Delaware-based nonprofit organization, has given MTSU's Nutrition and Food Science Program a grant of nearly $1,500 to help MTSU students and alumnae enlighten the public about fruits and vegetables.

The funding will pay for a training manual, teaching materials and coupons that will reduce the cost of produce for participants.

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In partnership with the Kroger supermarket at 2050 Lascassas Pike in Murfreesboro, training will begin in early January 2016 for four seniors and two alumnae who are now interns with National HealthCare Corporation, a firm that offers skilled nursing, rehabilitative care, assisted living and similar services.

The trainees will begin conducting daytime and nighttime tours of Kroger's produce department in February 2016 for students in the career orientation and nutrition coaching courses, who are required to participate, and for students at the Campus Recreation Center. The tours will continue until finals week in April 2016.

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"We're going to introduce all the participants to a variety of produce from fresh to frozen to canned to dried," said Lisa Sheehan-Smith, a professor of nutrition and food science and a registered dietician.

Participants will learn how to choose the best fruits and vegetables economically, how to read labels, how to eat produce in season and how to prepare it properly.

Sheehan-Smith said research shows that Americans exclude fruits and vegetables from their diets unnecessarily to the detriment of their overall health.

"They think it's too expensive to eat healthy," she said. "Rather than buying fresh, being afraid that it goes bad quickly, they just don't buy anything.

"People can eat nutritiously even when they're really, really in a hurry. We rely too much on a heavily fast-food, processed food diet."

Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads said the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain is happy to support MTSU in this effort.

"We have a good relationship with MTSU and are always looking for ways to support it whenever we can," said Eads.

The tours will be conducted by seniors Rachael Wiley of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee; Rachel McGinnis of Elkland, Missouri; Amanda Molinar of Nashville, Tennessee; Morgan Sager of Franklin, Tennessee, and alumnae Maia Dutta of Nashville and Amanda Welker of Murfreesboro.

Sheehan-Smith said they will create a website where training videos and other information will be posted. The data collected through the spring semester will go into a report to be submitted to the Produce for Better Health Foundation by June 1, 2016.

She said her goal is to use the data to find extra grant money to continue the program beyond the spring semester and perhaps even expand it to additional grocery stores.

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