Last semester when she was studying in Costa Rica, Caroline Moore ’14 conducted a research project evaluating the food children were being served in school. She was in Central America with a global health program run by Duke University’s Organization for Tropical Studies.
With three other study-abroad students, Moore visited schools, checked out kitchens, talked with students about healthy eating, and took photographs of what they left behind on their plates.
Coincidentally, her summer internship at the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center involves a similar project. Except this time Moore is analyzing the food served to Boston-area children attending six different day camps.
The major difference Moore has noted from her nutritional research in the two cultures is that children in Costa Rica eat far less processed food than children here. “Where we were, in the middle of indigenous territory in rural mountains…, [the schools] were making beans and rice and not serving these prepackaged foods that we get a lot,” Moore said.
The study Moore is working on this summer was designed by researchers at the Prevention Research Center, which aims to reduce chronic disease in children and working-class families by improving their diet and exercise. The center, according to its website, also seeks to reduce or eliminate disparities in people’s health caused by socioeconomic factors.
Moore, who is a biology major and a teaching minor, said she was attracted to her current work because of her interest in “food justice.” To support her position this summer, she received a Strong/Gault Social Advancement Internship Grant, which is one of many donor-funded grants Bowdoin offers to students to support otherwise unremunerated summer internships.
In a way, her work this summer is a continuation of work Moore did last summer, when she volunteered at a summer pantry that provides lunches for kids who, without the free meals provided by schools, are at risk of going hungry. This time around, Moore said that instead of doing “front-line” work, she is focusing, as she did in Costa Rica, on research, an important aspect of implementing food justice.
The rising senior, who grew up in Manchester, Mass., said she was exposed to community service as a child, when with her family she would regularly help her church serve weekly meals to the needy.
These days, Moore is traveling to local day camps to collect data. The center wants to see how much physical activity the children get during the day, what foods they are served and what they eat. The campers predominantly come from disadvantaged neighborhoods, Moore said, which aligns with the Strong/Gault grant mission of funding student work in economically underdeveloped areas.
The aim of the Prevention Research Center’s food project is to advise the camps on how to improve campers’ health through diet and exercise. “We might set goals to increase physical activity time or advise them to provide water instead of juice and serve whole-grain snacks,” Moore said.
In her future, Moore said she envisions working in education in some public health capacity, such as as a school health coordinator. “I want to be doing something hands on, working directly with people,” she said.