Melissa Coon is a senior at MU and a student assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. She wrote this story as part of her work with the Office of Undergraduate Studies.
Providing snacks for after-school programs is a great way to promote healthy lifestyles and educate students on the importance of proper nutrition. However, it can often be difficult to do, especially for programs that lack adequate funding and kitchen facilities.
MU student Lauren Sedlacek knows firsthand just how hard this can be. A native of O’Fallon, Mo., where she graduated from Fort Zumwalt High School in 2011, Sedlacek is majoring in agricultural economics and sustainable agriculture, with a minor in leadership and public service at Mizzou.
Sedlacek recently developed a nutrition and curriculum plan for Grade A!, an after-school program at For His Glory Ministries. The program takes place every Tuesday and Thursday evening and provides students with academic support, coaching and mentoring.
In an effort to rid their pantry of old donuts and lollipops, For His Glory Ministries contacted to the MU Office of Service Learning in hopes of finding a student to implement a nutrition plan. Sedlacek was immediately interested.
“I met with the Office of Service Learning to find a service opportunity that fit my interests,” she says. “Considering my passion for community food security and nutrition education, my adviser thought Grade A! would be a good fit for me.”
Twice a week, Sedlacek prepared healthy snacks — like sweet potato fries, pita bread pizza and trail mix — for students in the Grade A! after-school program. She also gave a short presentation to students about the food they were eating and the ways in which they could live a healthy lifestyle.
She also prepared a recipe book for students with tips for maintaining healthy eating habits.
“I used some recipes from the Internet and tweaked many of them to accommodate different taste buds and budgets,” Sedlacek says. “Others were created from my own experience with the nutrition program and knowledge of what works well for encouraging students to have fun with healthy foods.”
Sedlacek obtained most of the food she prepared through community donations and the Central Missouri Food Pantry. This helped cut costs and gave her more time to research other nutrition programs.
“I spent a lot of time researching other schools to find out what they were doing to educate students about nutrition,” she says.
Sedlacek plans to use her experience with Grade A! to make an impact on globalization and industrialized agriculture systems.
“After-school programs are definitely in need of nutrition coordinators, but they often lack the resources to provide it,” she says. “When I think about my career, I know I want to impact people and policy. I want to serve humanity by standing up for what I think we deserve: enough real food and accessibility. I will hopefully be able to utilize the skills I gained through this program to do that.”