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NMSU Extension faculty participating in nationwide student health research

New Mexico State University is one of several schools participating in the USDA grant-funded Fruved project based at the University of Tennessee, but NMSU researchers are hoping to use some of the data to determine how healthy NMSU students are.


Photo of man at a computer
Connor Hudson, a dietetic internship student at New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, looks over a sample of a survey given to students this fall at Garcia Hall as part of the Fruved project. New Mexico State University is one of several schools participating in the USDA grant-funded Fruved project based at the University of Tennessee, but NMSU researchers are hoping to use some of the data to determine how healthy NMSU students are. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)
Photo of healthy breakfast options
Students at New Mexico State University’s Garcia Hall dorms were treated to a healthy breakfast courtesy of Extension faculty working with the Fruved research project. NMSU is one of several schools participating in the USDA grant-funded Fruved project based at the University of Tennessee, but NMSU researchers are hoping to use some of the data to determine how healthy NMSU students are. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

Fruved, which is short for fruits and vegetables, began in 2014 with four intervention and four control schools, and has since expanded to 90 campuses nationwide. This year, NMSU received a $3,000 mini-grant from the Fruved project to be a control school. Students living at Garcia Hall were asked in participate in surveys about their nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress levels while being treated to a healthy breakfast.

Lourdes Olivas, an associate faculty member of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ Extension Family and Consumer Sciences department, said audits were also conducted of the Taos Restaurant and Frenger Food Court to determine how healthy those campus dining options are, and audits were also conducted on recreational services and facilities on campus. Surveys were also given to department heads, deans and other campus administrators about their perceptions of what should change in order to have a healthy campus.

Olivas said participation in Fruved has led her to create the Thrive program, which features informational sessions to teach students about proper nutrition, exercise, stress management and financial wellness.

“We started educational sessions to relay information to students and how they can apply it in their lives to work on eating healthier,” Olivas said. “We’re hopeful that by conducting the surveys in the dorms it will help increase participation.”

According to fruved.com, the study’s goal is help students manage their weight and live healthier by focusing on improving dietary intake; increasing physical activity and improving overall stress management skills. The study uses a community-based participatory research approach, which means it is a heavily student-led project. Student researchers work alongside lead researchers and make a strong impact on activities and social media.

Fruved also has sophomores and juniors at each school peer mentoring first year students, helping them live a healthier life during their first year of college, according to project researchers. This year, college students participating in Fruved began outreach efforts to high schools, and ultimately hope to spread the message of healthy living to middle and elementary school students.

Being involved in the Fruved project is part of the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service’s mission to provide community outreach.

“One of the traditional roles of Cooperative Extension Service’s Family and Consumer Sciences is to provide educational programs in areas of health and wellness thereby enhancing the quality of life for people in New Mexico,” said Priscilla Bloomquist, interim department head for the College of ACES’ Family and Consumer Sciences and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences. “This particular program is exciting because it spreads the message of healthy living to NMSU students while also introducing them to the good work of the Cooperative Extension Service.”

Established by the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, the Extension model arose at a time when American agriculture was generally inefficient, Bloomquist said.

“Just over a century later, American agriculture is largely without equal,” Bloomquist said. “This has given rise to the belief the Extension system can do for the nation’s health what it has done for American agriculture.”

At NMSU, three dietetic interns have been involved with various projects on Fruved that were implemented with student housing, and another dietetic intern is expected to assist researchers in the spring, Olivas said. Their participation also exposes them to several programs in Extension.

“Dietetic interns are able to have hands-on meaningful experiences through their Cooperative Extension Service rotation,” said Gaby Phillips, NMSU Dietetic Internship director. “Their participation in the Fruved grant project has a positive impact on the NMSU community. This is a great opportunity to provide nutrition and lifestyle education that helps to improve campus community health and wellness.”

The data collected as part of the Fruved program will be sent along to researchers at the University of Tennessee for analysis, but Olivas said she hopes the Thrive program will follow freshmen students throughout their four years at NMSU to see how healthy habits translate into academic success.