Tulane grad students support youth-led Rethinkers

(Photo Courtesy of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools: Lea Jones, center, joins Rethinkers Jamil Bovia, left, and Davione Peters, right, at the Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools's news conference on July 27, 2012.)

A lot goes into the grades assigned to schools in the local Rethinkers' third annual school food report card and the programming over the summer while schools are out. And two Tulane public health graduate students now know this firsthand.

Over the past school year, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine students Shannon Billig and Lea Jones helped Rethinkers conduct their annual school food report card during and helped the organization evaluate the impact of its summer program. Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools selected both interns through the Tulane PRC's practicum internship program, which helps place public health graduate students with local host organizations.

Over the summer, Jones revised and implemented surveys to gauge the Rethinkers' impact on its members. In doing so, the second-year graduate student said, she realized the importance of having youth input in the process.

"This practicum has motivated me to learn more about participatory monitoring and evaluation where young people aren’t just subjects, but partners and directors of the process," Jones said.

During the past school year, Billig helped Rethinkers modify their scoring system for the school food report and analyze the results. Each school and school district or charter organization is different. Some have fully functioning kitchens, while others only have the equipment to reheat prepared foods. To address these types of discrepancies, the grading method changed this year so that not only the individual schools would receive grades but also the food vendors and the school districts.

"We had to look at which questions fell under which authority – who can we engage to address certain areas," Billig said. "Now they're identifying those people who can make those changes."

Seeing the process of implementing a survey from beginning to end was a valuable learning experience, Billig said. And working with the students on the Rethinkers' Food Justice Committee led to intensive discussions about not only the school food surveys but also the local, state and federal policies that influence what foods are served and how student wellness is addressed.

"They were very sophisticated in their thinking," Billig said, noting their ability to clearly link concepts to application.

Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools delivered their annual school food grades, recommendations and work conducted over the summer at a July news conference attended by education advocates, school officials, community organizations and others.
Kids need their schools to support them by providing healthy food and regular physical fitness, reforming discipline codes, and setting up tools to help students cope with stress, the students reported.

Rethinkers held the conference at a local school to close out their summer program, announce the results of their third annual school food report card and share some original art and songs. The school officials on hand for the conference said they would meet with the Rethinkers to discuss next steps.

"They are really pushing us to create great school experiences for our kids," said Dana Peterson, deputy superintendent of external affairs for the Recovery School District.

But not all the recommendations will be easy to implement, said Peterson and Jay Altman, CEO and co-founder of FirstLine Schools, a charter school network. Altman encouraged the students to stay open to discussing how some issues are complex and not cut and dry.

To learn more about Kids Rethink New Orleans School, visit therethinkers.com.

Other Related Posts


New Movin' for LIFE project works with communities to improve health

Food Environment Research Physical Activity Research Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

We all know we should be eating healthfully and getting regular physical activity, but actually doing so isn't always easy. So how can we support communities in New Orleans to meet those goals? The Tulane Prevention Research Center has started a new project – Movin' for LIFE – with the goal of finding out how to help residents in specific neighborhoods improve their diet and physical activity and putting the resources in place to make…

Read More


Prevention Research Centers make impact on policies, systems, and environments

Food Environment Research Physical Activity Research Policy & Advocacy

Published: December 21, 2015

When working toward environmental changes, several Prevention Research Centers across the country have been successful thanks to specific steps they each followed. Researchers from seven PRCs across the country, including the Tulane Prevention Research Center, collaborated to evaluate their centers' work and published their findings in the October issue of Preventing Chronic Disease. The PRCs used a framework created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine policy, systems, and environmental interventions to…

Read More


Message from the Director

Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

All of us at the Tulane Prevention Research Center would like to thank you for your partnership, for your support, for your caring and for all the work that you do to make our city a better and healthier place to live, work, and play. We all extend our heartfelt wishes to you and your families for a wonderful holiday season – take a break and be kind to yourself. Let us all anticipate a…

Read More


New training developed for Cooking Matters volunteer nutrition educators

Education & Training Projects Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

Classes that provide hands-on cooking skills and education about healthy eating on a budget to low-income families in the New Orleans area are moving to the next level, thanks to help from a Tulane public health graduate student. Graduate student Kara Lubeck not only coordinated and led many Cooking Matters classes as an intern with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, she also developed a new volunteer training program for…

Read More


Legislative Briefs: government actions on obesity

Education & Training Projects Food Environment Research Physical Activity Research Policy & Advocacy Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

Pedestrian and Bike Safety Committee meets to improve pedestrian and bike safety in New Orleans A New Orleans government committee focused on safety for people walking and biking met in October and December – the third and fourth meetings of the group – to develop recommendations on making the city safer for all transportation users, including bikers, pedestrians and people with disabilities. The committee has been receiving public input and reviewing existing laws, and will…

Read More


Community Partner Updates

Policy & Advocacy Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

See what our Community Advisory Board (CAB) members have been up to this fall. Click on the photo to view a gallery of pictures and read below for updates from some of our members. To find out more about the CAB, click here. Pictures 1-4: The New Orleans Recreation and Development Commission (NORDC) and Fit NOLA Parks had a busy fall. In November, NORDC transitioned its Fit NOLA programming from six Fit NOLA Parks to…

Read More


PRC Staff Spotlight

Food Environment Research Physical Activity Research

Published: December 21, 2015

Meet Kamala Pandey, the accountant for the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC). Kamala is responsible for budgeting and financial management of the center. Her responsibilities include monitoring financial accounts for grants and maintaining budgets; arranging and overseeing grant purchases and reconciliation; and preparing hiring and payroll paperwork for faculty, staff and students. Prior to joining the Tulane PRC, Kamala was the accountant for the Tulane University Health Sciences Center parking department. Kamala graduated from Tulane…

Read More


Nutrition Bites: Hot Topic - Probiotics

Education & Training Projects Food Environment Research Special Community Engagement Projects

Published: December 21, 2015

Gut health is getting more attention as research reveals the benefits of a balanced microbiota, or the microbe population in the intestine. Prebiotics are also gaining popularity due to their direct impact on gut microbiota, but what do we really know about probiotics? What are probiotics? The Food and Agriculture Organization and The World Health Organization define probiotics as “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” More…

Read More

Obesity is in our head and in our genes - Genetic Literacy Project

Food Environment Research

Published: December 01, 2015

Genetic Literacy Project Obesity is in our head and in our genes Genetic Literacy Project A little more than 100 years ago, Lillian Russell was considered one of the most beautiful women in the US, and more than tipped the scales at 200 pounds. “Pleasantly plump” was considered healthy, and not a health problem. Obesity was a different story.

Read More

Obesity Rates Climb In United States, Eating McDonald's As Bad As Smoking ... - The Inquisitr

Food Environment Research

Published: November 29, 2015

The Inquisitr Obesity Rates Climb In United States, Eating McDonald's As Bad As Smoking … The Inquisitr Obesity rates are climbing globally with the US now being the fattest country with one-third of all people obese. This is not a matter of opinion about people of different sizes and accepting of various body shapes and types. Obesity is a disease …

Read More