Hungry? Lunch choices at USF Health just got healthier thanks to a student-directed project.
Graduate students in the Health Education Intervention Methods class in the USF College of Public Health (COPH) designed and implemented Edi-BULL, a campaign that aims to bring healthier food choices to students, faculty and staff at USF Health.
Working with two popular USF Health food destinations – Rollin Zoinks food truck and Tarek’s Café – the students launched the pilot project April 7, coinciding with COPH’s celebration of National Public Health Week.
“We really wanted to increase customer awareness and knowledge for seeking out healthier options at restaurants, especially on-campus choices, where healthier choices are usually limited because of time and convenience,” said Lauren Vance, a graduate student in the class.
“We wanted a student-driven project that helped chefs promote their healthier menu items while making it easier for consumers to identify the more nutritious options,” said Julie Baldwin, PhD, professor in COPH Department of Community and Family Health and the faculty member who leads the Health Education Intervention Methods course. “But the service-learning project was also meant to help students experience implementing a project, from start to finish, including measuring the results.”
The student group also teamed up with several experts for expertise on running an effective campaign on wellness: Lauri Wright, PhD, RD, LD/N, assistant professor in COPH Department of Community and Family Health and a dietitian, for nutrition expertise; Carol Bryant, PhD, MS, Distinguished USF Health Professor in Community and Family Health, for social marketing expertise; and Rita DeBate, PhD, MPH, FAED, professor, assistant dean for COPH Graduate Programs, and newly named co-chair of USF’s Healthy Campus 2020 Steering Committee , a group tasked with improving the overall health and wellness of USF students.
All Edi-BULL worthy dishes had to meet several criteria in order to be called healthy, Dr. Wright said. They always had to be below 550 calories, but then each had to also be either low sodium (under 1,500 mg), or low fat (under 30 g), or include whole grains.
The students determined the details of the campaign, from the logo to the implementation plan, to the follow-up evaluation, Dr. Baldwin said. Students were split into two teams: one worked with Tarek’s Café and the other with Rollin Zoinks.
Both venues offered choices that met the healthy criteria, and students helped each owner fine-tune the options, as well as add a few more.
At Tarek’s, Edi-BULL options include blackened tilapia, Greek veggie wrap, roasted vegetable wrap and hummus salad.
Options at Rollin Zoinks include primo chicken wrap, shroomin wrap, primo veggie wrap and a corn side salad. Those healthier options are designated by an Edi-BULL symbol on the menu boards.
As a project, Edi-BULL was great for giving students experience in the field, said Sara Wolicki, a student on the Rollin Zoinks team.
“I really like how practical it is, that it is an exact application of what we’ll be doing as health educators,” Wolicki said. “It’s nice to be able to have these experiences now, while we’re students, as a way to practice implementing a project. It offers useful information in a practical and meaningful way, and it will help influence the USF community in a positive way, as well.”
Tarek team member Vance agreed.
“This service-learning project was super rewarding for me,” Vance said. “It was a great process for collaboration and implementing a full-scale project. This is what I want to do – program planning, implementation and evaluation – so this project really meets my career wants and needs.”
This type of service-learning project is one of many COPH offers its students to give the stronger project implementation skills.
“Our college tries to offer service-learning projects so students gain better insight into how to successfully implement projects,” Dr. Baldwin said. “These types of class projects go beyond just theorizing and planning a program, because students actually carry out the project. This provides hands-on experience for the types of projects they will be managing in their careers.”
This particular project offered benefits beyond the graduate students implementing it.
“Projects like this go a long way in helping consumers make better food choices,” Dr. Wright said. “With one third of Americans obese and one third overweight, that leaves only one third who are at an ideal weight. Environmental changes are what increase success for consumers and point-of-purchase changes are especially effective and can really make the difference.”
Based on the program’s success, Edi-BULL may be expanded to other eateries across the USF campus.
“Universities are behind the business world in offering useful wellness programs,” Dr. Wright said. “The Edi-BULL campaign fits nicely into USF’s Healthy Campus 2020 designation, and could definitely go campus wide to help everyone make better food choices.”
Edi-BULL team members include: Jo Courtney, Agata Fenik, Spencer Jones, Allie Prendergast, Lauren Vance, Mario Vargas, Paige Wagner, Benetta Ward, and Sara Wolicki.
Written by Sarah Worth and photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications