By Bindia Shetty

Learning how to shop at the grocery store is a valuable life skill. This thought sparked an idea in nutrition senior lecturer Claire Norton to develop grocery store tours for NUTRITN 130 - Nutrition for a Healthy Lifestyle. Since its inception in spring 2017, the course has provided an opportunity for more than 50 nutrition majors to collectively lead hundreds of grocery store tours. This unique experience continues to be a popular aspect of the high in-demand general education course comprising over 450 students from all majors every semester.

Norton, a registered dietitian as well as the Undergraduate Program Director and Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) in the Department of Nutrition, states her primary motivation was to help nutrition students gain confidence disseminating knowledge to the public. The hour-long tours aim to reinforce concepts covered throughout the semester via a combination of instruction and interactive activities such as scavenger hunts. This includes material like application of the American Heart Association and USDA initiative MyPlate guidelines to promote healthy eating patterns, identifying added sugar, sodium, whole grains, probiotics and phytochemicals, enrichment and fortification of products, structure/function and health claims, and farming practices. Students are also given tips to expertly dissect food labels and shop on a budget. Students who participate in the tours have found them to be extremely beneficial, especially since many will no longer have meal plans once they move off-campus or graduate.

"We set up the grocery store tours to give nutrition students a chance to practice low stakes public speaking,” Norton states. “Through this experience they also learn the ins and outs of food at the grocery store which is ‘ground zero’ (to quote Marion Nestle) for so many nutrition decisions that consumers make. This experience not only orients the students in the class to the grocery store, but also develops the abilities of the upper-class nutrition majors in explaining nutrition information in simple terms to consumers. The tour leaders, once trained, are independent and take tours of four students at a time through the grocery store.”

Lamarcus Grayson ’19, a recent DPD graduate and tour leader, credits this experience with helping him refine his public speaking skills. A U.S. veteran, Grayson plans to integrate his interest in nutrition with genetics and aspires to a career in the emerging field of personalized nutrition.

The grocery store tours take place at Big Y and Stop & Shop, both conveniently located within close proximity to campus. “We are very grateful to the managers at Big Y and Stop & Shop for being receptive to the idea and accommodating our students,” adds Norton.

Article posted in Academics for Prospective students and Current students