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Institute of Child Nutrition Expands Outreach, Impact

The Institute of Child Nutrition at the UNiversity of Mississippi is celebrating its 30th year of operation. Submitted photo

Celebrating its 30th year of operation, the Institute of Child Nutrition at the University of Mississippi has issued an impact report showing huge growth in outreach aimed at training food service professionals in proper food preparation and nutrition for children nationwide.

The Institute of Child Nutrition, or ICN, offers free training to thousands of people each year across the U.S., Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa.

Since 2010, face-to-face trainings have increased by 650 percent, the number of online users who seek the institute’s training in their virtual setting has increased by 426 percent and the number of national and state conferences its staff participates in has increased by 350 percent, according to the report.

“We are a one-of-a-kind organization here,” said Aleshia Hall-Campbell, ICN executive director. “We are the only federally funded national center that is responsible for conducting trainings, conducting applied research and providing technical assistance for child nutrition programs.

“But we are also a kind of hidden jewel on this university’s campus that a lot of Mississippi natives have no idea exist. We work to professionalize the field of child nutrition, and in order to do that, practitioners have to receive an adequate amount of training. Beyond our trainings, we are a resource repository, so people can come to our website and find all kinds of information.”

The ICN is part of the School of Applied Sciences. Peter Grandjean, the school’s dean, describes ICN as the university’s most forward-facing enterprise.

“Dr. Aleshia Hall-Campbell and her diverse and extraordinary team are a tour de force at enhancing our nation’s workforce in school nutrition programs and improving the health and well-being of school-age children everywhere,” Grandjean said. “The institute embodies everything we aspire to be in the School of Applied Sciences.”

Besides regular trainings, ICN sponsors a major cities training symposium each year in metropolitan centers across the country, most recently in Tampa, Florida. This is an opportunity for the nation’s biggest school districts to come together and discuss their wants, needs and observations from the program.

“These conversations lead to better training for child nutrition professionals, along with a better understanding of how to further improve and advance the organization,” Hall-Campbell said.

Since ICN aids thousands of school districts that serve millions of children, cultural competence plays a major role in child nutrition professional training. ICN provides all trainers with diversity education, so that diverse regional, cultural and ethnic food norms receive respect and attention.

The institute recently hosted the Native American Advisory Council at Ole Miss to learn more about meeting the dietary needs and expectations of Native American children.

Along with trainings that teach food preparation for a variety of cultures, ICN continues to add new recipes to its training programs to meet diverse dietary needs and restrictions, including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan recipes.

The general public also can benefit from the institute’s free online classes that provide healthy tips on preparing food, along with how to prepare healthy recipes that are USDA-approved. Online visitors can learn proper meal preparation techniques to stay healthy, how to provide a healthy diet for children and how to prepare new recipes, along with nutrition information for each.

To learn more about the Institute of Child Nutrition or to take advantage of its free online programming, visit https://theicn.org/.

The School of Applied Sciences, home of the Institute of Child Nutrition, offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being.

By Nicole Wilkin

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