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UC students create supermarket tour for OzHarvest

Vanessa Lam

29 July 2016: Master of Nutrition and Dietetics students from the University of Canberra recently had the chance to develop and conduct a supermarket tour, which will be delivered nationally, as part of a six-week placement with OzHarvest Canberra.

OzHarvest is a perishable food rescue organisation that collects quality excess food from more than 2,000 commercial businesses and delivers it, direct and free of charge to more than 800 charities across Australia. OzHarvest Canberra currently provides food to more 45 charities across the ACT.

Students Monique Cheang, Shaun McCall and Jessie Ebsworth held a 'Kick Start – Shop Smart' pilot session at Woolworths in Queanbeyan last month as a potential addition to OzHarvest's Nutrition Education Sustenance Training (NEST) program.

The NEST program teaches people in need simple cooking skills and nutritional information.  The program modules are tailored to meet the needs of charitable organisations to incorporate into training for those who access their services.

OzHarvest manager Dave Burnet said that the skills taught through the modules are designed to help people for life.

"The students have helped to develop one of our signature programs. This module that they've worked on is very important and with development we can take it nationally so it's pretty exciting," Mr Burnet said.

The students led a small group throughout the supermarket, giving them an informative and hands-on guide to shopping on a budget while eating healthy, tasty food.

Alumna and OzHarvest's ACT NEST Coordinator, Manmeet Kaur said she saw the possibility of adding modules and thought it would be a great opportunity to get University students involved.

"We wanted our supermarket tour module to be similar to the current NEST module, with one hour of a pre-tour section for learning and then going into the supermarket to have a hands-on experience," Ms Cheang said.

"We asked them to compare different products of price per unit and the nutritional label and recommend that people to shop within a budget. The feedback we received was great, everyone said that the tour was a fun and interactive experience because it gave them a real life context."

Ms Ebsworth said one of the highlights of the placement was going out in the van that delivers the collected food.

"We got to see just how much work these guys do, how much food they move and how grateful the people are with receiving the food," she said.

"It also gave us great insight into the needs around our supermarket tour because we got to lead a NEST session ourselves, so we actually got to deal with the people that would be doing the tour and determine what their needs were and what we could to do help them."

It's the first time nutrition and dietetics students from the University have completed their community nutrition and public health placement at OzHarvest Canberra.  Clinical assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics Rachel Bacon said it was a great opportunity for students to apply their knowledge in a range of different contexts.

"A community placement like this is particularly good because the students get such a broad range of experience and they get to work within the community.  It gives them the opportunity to engage directly with the community and that practical holistic understanding will strengthen their practice when they go to work as dietitians," she said.

The tour will be developed over the coming weeks/months with the final module delivered to clients, staff and carers at Canberra and Queanbeyan charities.