Students experience community nutrition while serving as FNP summer interns

students standing by HNFE department sign.

2016 Family Nutrition Program Interns

The Family Nutrition Program welcomes 12 students from Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise into its internship program this summer.

This program serves as a partnership between the Family Nutrition Program and the HNFE department. This internship provides students with real-life experience that is related to their studies.

“It really benefits HNFE since it gives students a chance to experience real-world community nutrition,” said Lynn Margheim, a trainer for Virginia FNP. “The students not only get to participate in delivering nutrition education, they’re also learning about government food programs and accountability, and they’re putting the food safety skills they’ve learned into practice.”

According to Margheim, these interns learn how to work independently through their tasks of contacting partners and marketing the program. Additionally, the interns are required to complete necessary paperwork and report on and evaluate their observations and findings at the sites.

“Most students tell me, ‘This was the best thing I’ve done, I really just learned so much,’” Margheim said. “A few of them will say, ‘I love kids and love nutrition; I want to do this as a career.’ I think it really helps them discover a lot of career opportunities as well as their own talents, wherever they lie. For FNP, our goal is to reach as many people in Virginia as possible with healthy nutrition messages.” The new interns aim to reach 2,500 students during the summer programs.

college student holding tray of salsa samples

Paige Macauley, a senior studying human foods, nutrition and exercise, demonstrates a cantaloupe lime salsa recipe at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.

Other interns perform tasks that focus on farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits, which include encouraging lower-income families to feel comfortable in the farmers market setting. At the markets, student interns perform nutrition education and food demonstrations where they prepare simple recipes that feature produce available at the farmers market.

“Farmers markets love us being there,” Margheim said. “Usually the intern will demonstrate a produce, such as broccoli, and afterwards, everyone grabs the recipe and purchases broccoli, ultimately benefiting our local economy. It’s really been very beneficial for the markets to have these demonstrations for their vendors because they encourage people to used their SNAP benefits on fresh local foods.”

After last year’s internship program, FNP decided to make some changes to allow for more collaboration and the opportunity for students to go out into the community and work with low-income, disadvantaged students.

“Many of the Virginia Tech students have never set foot in these neighborhoods, so it really opens up a new view of their neighboring communities. They get to see a side of their community they’ve probably never seen before,” Margheim said.

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