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FRESH (Food Resources and Education for Student Health)

October 9, 2019

Madalina Benea was an undergraduate nutrition student at Brescia who was looking to get more involved in her community when she found out about the FRESH program. FRESH (Food Resources and Education for Student Health) is a comprehensive peer nutrition education program, created by and for university students.

The program uses peer-to-peer education to engage students, who are often more likely to listen to someone their own age who can relate to their circumstances and create a personal connection. 

After starting as a peer educator, Madalina later joined the executive team. Today she’s the President, and is responsible for overseeing the program as a whole. Looking back, she’s valued the continuous learning experience and the chance to help her peers develop their food literacy and nutrition knowledge.

All FRESH members are nutrition students who are given further training and orientation to ensure that the information they’re providing is evidence-based and accurate. If a peer educator ever doesn’t know the answer to a student’s question, they know to refer back to the executive team and follow up later, rather than risk giving inaccurate information. 

The FRESH team also really values their faculty and hospitality advisors who, among other things, have been an invaluable help when it comes to liaising with the university administration to implement FRESH activities.

These activities include student-led nutrition education sessions, a point-of-purchase menu labeling program in campus dining halls, a visual healthy plate guide, “FRESH facts” nutrition information cards, and a reward system for students who purchase fruit, salads, or dairy products from campus eateries. 

Madalina emphasizes that they try to make the program fun and interactive, and have a mix of events, although the cooking demos tend to be the most popular (crepes are always a hit!)

The program aims to help students not only while they’re living on campus, but also as they bridge the gap between living in residence (with access to campus dining) and living on their own. Madalina always found it gratifying to see students’ confidence and skills increase over time as she did more events in the same dorm over the course of a year. Many of the students that FRESH targets are first-year students, often with low food literacy and limited cooking skills

This year has brought exciting new partnerships for FRESH, as they’ve been working with the Egg Farmers of Ontario and Half Your Plate to encourage students to make healthy choices. FRESH has also been able to use resources from the Ontario Bean Growers and the Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Program resources, recipes and more information are available at freshu.ca. If you’re at UWO, you can also request a FRESH event.