Caroline Lee ‘13 is working with the Madison County Department of Health to conduct research on healthy options at county restaurants. She is gathering and analyzing children’s menus from independently owned restaurants across Madison County to assess the health of the options on the menu. She is comparing these menus to those offered from chain restaurants, and will then conduct interviews with the owners of independent restaurants to better understand the barriers to adding healthy options to the menus.
Though she is only a few weeks into the project, Caroline has already improved her research skills by studying the restaurant industry, childhood obesity trends, and nutrition. She has developed a better understanding of the problem of childhood obesity, and is reviewing research about how eating out may contribute to the problem of childhood obesity. Much of this research shows that portion sizes have increased in many restaurants and people often consume more calories when eating out than they would if dining at home. She is also reviewing and gathering data on how childhood obesity can lead to health problems later in life such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. For example, according to data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, obesity levels among children ages 6 to 11 have doubled in the United States from 7% in 1980 to 16% in 2002, and children consume 1.8 times as many calories when eating outside the home as within the home.
Caroline is also working with the department on some of their ongoing programs, such as their breastfeeding promotion program and the Health Food Drive Toolkit. This Tool-Kit provides youth programs with the tools and information they need to hold a successful and healthy food drive. She will also work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Choose Health Camp, where she will work with a team to teach kids about healthy eating and fitness through interactive activities, culinary adventures and food tastings.
The fellowship at the Madison County Department of Health fits well with Caroline’s future education and career goals. She hopes to attend New York University after she graduates from Colgate in 2013 to complete a master’s degree in food studies. She plans to pursue a job related to healthy eating education, and would love to work with kids. “This job has provided me with a rich background on childhood obesity and on child eating habits in general,” Caroline says about her summer fellowship.