Nutrition and dietetics students dish out healthy eating tips to second grade classes

Ian Lack Reporter

Many parents likely have experienced this conversation, especially before Halloween: teaching children the importance of “eating right” and the appropriate amount of sugars.

Four years ago, Shelly Brandenburger, an SDSU nutrition class’s lecturer, noticed these conversations and took note. Brandenburger was able to get into contact with Hillcrest Elementary School in Brookings for a special opportunity for her students as well as theirs.

Working with the school district, a curriculum was made for second grade classes to learn about general nutrition. Now, all that was needed was a group of teachers for the second grade classes, and Brandenburger had a special group of SDSU students in mind.

Reaching out to other nutrition classes as well as her own, she asked for student volunteers willing to teach the second graders about topics such as food portioning, appropriate sugar amounts and the basic food groups.


“I think most of the students that we had volunteer were just those that were looking for an opportunity to begin to apply what they’re learning as future dieticians by going out into the community and teaching about what they’ve already learned,” Brandenburger said.

The program, now in its fourth year, has seen much appreciation from the students learning about the issues, as well as teachers.

“I think that this has just been a great community activity, and I think nowadays within homes, just with how busy things are, kids are just left to choose what they want to eat,” said second grade class teacher Suzy Gehring. “What was so great about the lessons that the students were teaching is that they’re actually showing them and telling them that this is what you need on your plate.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention would likely agree with Gehring. In 2015, the organization reported that childhood obesity has more than doubled in the last 30 years.


To help address this problem and promote healthy awareness among children, the 12 students from various classes split into four groups to teach the four classes at Hillcrest and address a different topic of nutrition for the school week.


About two weeks before the lessons, the students went through orientation on what exactly it was that they would be teaching the students. Junior dietetics major Cassidy Sloot found out about the opportunity through her community nutrition instructor.

“We were mostly given an outline for what we would be teaching the kids each day and then we had the freedom to present the lessons to them in the way we wanted when in class,” Sloot said.

Students taught the second-graders about food groups the first day, snacking habits the second and healthy beverages and portion sizing later on. On Friday, the children participated in an activity with food section plates provided by SDSU through Hy-Vee. The children were able to take these plates home in addition to the informational packets they were provided on the issues.

Over the course of the week, SDSU nutrition and dietetics students bonded with the children. Many of the second graders expressed their appreciation of the student teachers through hugs at the end of their time with them.

“It was actually kind of entertaining, teaching them, and they were so passionate about all of it. They knew all of the major food groups, which drinks had more sugars than others and really surprised me. I think it’s a good sign that kids are starting to think about nutrition more,” Sloot said.