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Bring on the Pig!

14 Feb

By Theresa Reynolds

Chef Mic and students display their pig

Last year, I took Advanced Meat Analysis and Knife Skills, Diet 414. This is a required class for my culinary arts emphasis that I am taking along with Nutrition and Dietetics. For those who do not know about this track, it simply means that I have to take a few culinary classes instead of other electives. I take all of the same Dietetic classes (except Clinical Practicum, unfortunately) and will be able to apply for the internship and take the RD exam afterwards.
For Diet 414, the lab sessions include “hands-on fabrication of beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry and fish. I could talk about our seafood day or I could talk about the different ways to cut up a chicken. However, I think that getting a whole pig in a class and then breaking him down into 5 primal cuts in less than six hours will make a pretty good topic. It also doesn’t hurt that we got some pretty great pictures of the process.

When we got the pig in he was already split in half. This disappointed our teacher because he had hoped for us students to take the band saw and split him down the middle. We all managed to get a lot of sawing in so I don’t feel that we missed out too much on that experience. With the encouraging advice of “just go for it and figure it out as you go along” and a guide book of butchery our teacher gave us permission to dismember Porky.
I guess I should mention that we were not completely thrown into this without guidance. Before this class we had a discussion about the 5 primal cuts found in a pig. A primal cut are the larger cuts made that are then fabricated or broken down into smaller more recognizable portions. These primal cuts are the Boston butt, Picnic shoulder, Loin, Belly and Ham. Here is a picture:

Pig Diagram

The Boston butt is meaty and tender with lean meat. It is used primarily in smoking and barbequing. The picnic shoulder is also used in similar methods but has more bone because it includes the leg. This leg or “hock” is smoked and added to dishes, like greens, for flavor. The belly (called side in the picture) is very fatty and that is where bacon and spare ribs are found. The loin contains the back ribs and pork tenderloin. The ribs are usually barbequed and the tenderloin can be roasted or sautéed. The fresh ham is the butt which is confusing because the front end is called the Boston butt. This is where your honey-baked ham or cured ham is made from.

It was very interesting to see the whole (200 pound) animal where my bacon or pork chops come from at Schnucks. It made me appreciate my food a little bit more and also the convenience that we have of being able to buy already cut up meat. It wasn’t impossible but butchering the pig was a hard and long process. It has given me perspective and the realization that my food is not just something that comes in a Styrofoam plastic wrapped case.

The pig's head
He wasn’t so bad. Definitely easy on the eyes!

Theresa carves her pig

Off with his head!

Theresa Reynolds is a Junior in Nutrition & Dietetics


The Milk Motto

31 Jan

During the Fall semester, the Community Nutrition class was assigned the task of creating marketing materials to deliver a nutrition message to a specific target audience.  Gabby Corvington, Linda Nguyen and Taranjeet Singh created this fun music video to encourage teen girls to drink milk.  Follow them on Facebook at:  and learn more about their creative process in the interview with the filmmakers below.

What gave you the idea to shoot a music video? 

Taranjeet: The idea to shoot a music video was a result of a lot of brainstorming. At first, we thought of ways to connect with preteens and teens.

Gabby:  We kept thinking okay what do teen girls like? Teens like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and music!

Linda: We stumbled upon a website that rapped about calcium, and it clicked with us that we should create our own.

Gabby: We decided to focus on making a song about teen girls and how they need to get more calcium in their diets.

What inspired you?

Gabby: I knew that the acronym “YOLO” (you only live once) was a popular saying among teens ever since the song “The Motto” by a rapper named Drake came out. Because this is so popular we decided to focus on making a remix out of the song, which was very fun! I like making remixes to songs. We knew we had to make it fun because if you are too serious, you won’t be able to get a message across to this group. Linda did an awesome job editing the video!

Taranjeet: In today’s world, hip-hop and fashion are “in” while things such as osteoporosis and other health problems don’t really cross a teenager’s mind. Overall, this idea of connecting with our audience and making it “cool” were the biggest inspirations to shoot this music video!

How did you choose the locations used to film it?

Gabby: Linda, Taranjeet and I were brainstorming locations of where teens would hang out. We thought about malls or the Delmar Loop but did not really want to film at either of those spots. Linda knew of a graffiti wall right here in St. Louis, which was huge and very colorful! It was perfect to go with our rap song.

Linda: I was inspired by my own hip-hop dance team, XQuizit (XQ), that I was a part of for the past 3 years at SLU.  “The Motto” was actually a song that we had danced to! While in my reminiscent state, I thought of the amazing mile-long graffiti wall, which was where XQ had done a photo shoot. I thought this seemed very appropriate for such a song–it is colorful, fun, youthful and very urban/hip.  I don’t know about everyone else, but when I see graffiti walls, I automatically think hip-hop/rap-scenes. Gabby decided to throw in the Schnucks location specifically because we had it in our lyrics and wanted visuals.

Did the project give you any insights into working with teens?  

Gabby: I realized that when working with teens you have to be updated on what is current.  I feel like my group had an advantage because we aren’t that many years away from the adolescent age.

Linda: I had to revert back 5 years and imagine what I cared most about. I was also able to observe how my teenage niece is now. Her life and friends revolve around “beauty” and “fashion”. These girls don’t really care about the future of their bones or even know what “osteoporosis” means.  They are all about the here and now. Working on this project, I was reminded how much, at this age, your friends and surroundings impact your development of self-identity. Teenage girls really care about their outward appearance and the habits/hobbies they pick up or how they think are highly influenced by friends, school and the media; thus, we wanted to focus on the fact that getting calcium now helps with their growth and supports the many changes they experience.

Did the project shape your view of dietetics?

Gabby: This did shape my view of dietetics because I started to see how creative you can be in this field! You can get an important message across but still make things fun at the same time. I am so thankful to have a major where I am able to create and turn ideas into realities.

Linda: For me, this media project demonstrated the importance of personalizing dietary goals.  It is our job to identify our target audience (or in clinical settings: client/patient) and what they are concerned about, not what we think they are concerned about.  We want to be patient-centered! The most effective way to carry out a message for any behavior change is to increase perceived benefits and tailor the message to their interests.  Sometimes all it takes is a little research, and creativity.

Taranjeet: I think this was one of those experiences that really led me to believe that nutrition and dietetics is a fun, creative, and innovative field that can really reach out to various audiences. By knowing how to get across the message, everyone can be able to have the tools needed to implement a healthy lifestyle.

What was the most fun aspect?

Gabby: The most fun aspect was shooting the video. It was 70 degrees outside and beautiful! Linda brought her niece who brought along two other friends and they were all in high school so it was awesome to have actual teen girls in our video. I think what is even more fun now is the responses we are getting. People seem to really like our idea and the video itself. We have received a lot of positive comments. Even though this was just a project, I would like to keep the Facebook page up. I hope it actually does encourage teen girls to get more calcium!

Taranjeet: I think the entire process was an amazing experience but I love the actual shooting of the video the most. All of us, including the teenagers, had tons of fun with carrying dairy products around at odd places, walking by the graffiti wall, dancing and continuously having to re-shoot since we were all laughing. Our group can easily say that it was one of the best projects that we have created in our undergraduate years!

Linda:  Everything. I think we had a lot of fun with every process, from lyric-writing and brainstorming ideas on paper to actually bringing it to life. Creating fliers and editing videos are some things that I’ve always had the knack for; hence, my interest in marketing as a post-graduate study. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to put my creativity and marketing skills to the test. It definitely fuels my profound interest to invest in a nutrition and marketing degree in the future.

Gabby, Linda and Taranjeet are seniors in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Interview by Jessica Moeller-Gaa, SLUDA secretary

A Rewarding Experience as a Campus Kitchen Intern

9 Oct

It is a brilliant idea. Industrial kitchens AND a large pool of potential volunteers (AKA students) itching to perform service hours make college campuses the ideal location to create a partnership in hunger relief. Thus, the Campus Kitchen project was born.

A national non-profit based out of Washington D.C., Campus Kitchens transform gleaned grocery store food or recovered cafeteria food and turn it into a well-rounded meal that meets nutrition criteria. The meals are then packaged and distributed to those in need within the surrounding community.

Hannah Sabella spent her summer as an Intern at SLU’s Campus Kitchen location. I sat down with her to learn more about this exciting and rewarding opportunity.

What can you tell me about the Campus Kitchen Project on SLU’s campus?

SLU’s Campus Kitchen, located in Reinert Hall, prepares 400 supplemental meals per week and hand delivers them to low income, disabled and elderly individuals located at Council Towers, Grand View Towers, Our Ladies Inn, the YWCA and Father Dempsey Charities.

The kitchen receives 8 tons of food per week from Trader Joe’s grocery stores. The food is expired or damaged food that is still edible but the grocery store can no longer sell. We then use this food to prepare the meals. We may purchase staples like cooking oil and sugar but the goal is to use as much of the gleaned food as possible, fresh food first, without purchasing anything additional. This makes meal prep Iron chef-like because we never know what ingredients we will have from week to week and there may be an odd combination of ingredients.

As the Campus Kitchen Intern, what were your duties?

During the summer, high school students participating in an urban plunge retreat rotated through Campus Kitchen as one of their work sites. I worked with these groups of high school students to cook 80-90 meals each day.

It was a lot of fun! We made a competition out of it and split into teams to see who could prepare the best meal using the ingredients on hand. Sometimes this included a mystery can as an ingredient. We then packaged the food and delivered it during that same shift.

The student groups rotated through every two days so there were a lot of new faces to manage. I was the only intern but I also had the opportunity to work with the Americorps volunteer assigned to the kitchen.

Were there additional learning activities associated with the role?

I received Servsafe certification and Campus Kitchens paid for it! Other than that, there weren’t specific learning projects or activities outside of the regular duties; however, the position itself offered a wealth of opportunities for personal growth. Time management skills were necessary to coordinate food preparation so that we finished each component of the meal at the same time. Plus, I gained experience people managing numerous groups of high school students.

Managing high school students is no easy task!

Had you volunteered with Campus Kitchen before applying?

No. I had not.

How did you find out about the position?

Someone mentioned the opening and I reached out to Jenny at Campus Kitchens, told her I was interested and sent her my resume.

Why did you want to participate with Campus Kitchens?

Initially, I saw it as an available internship and so I applied. Then, during the interview process, I learned more about what Jenny (Director of the Campus Kitchen at SLU) did and thought, this is the kind of career I want!

Was it what you expected?

Yes. The duties were spelled out rather well during the initial interview.
It was a great experience. I felt like I was doing something meaningful.

What aspect of the role made the most impact on you? How has the experience changed you?

I gained insight into urban poverty and food deserts. I would see the same people each week and developed a connection with them.

Also, I held a leadership role but at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for cleaning up the kitchen. I wielded the mop and bucket. It was humbling.

Do you have new insights into your future career in dietetics?

The experience with urban poverty solidified my desire to get my MPH and work in community nutrition. No one should be hungry in the USA.

It isn’t often that we are aware of the moments that define us. We don’t often get confirmation that we have chosen the right career path. Hannah’s experience as a Campus Kitchen Intern offered those moments of clarity. She was excited to go to work each day and thought “I am on the right path. I could do something like this one day.”

The only way YOU are going to gain this kind of insight is to get out there and get INVOLVED. It may be working in a campus kitchen, teaching kids to eat their vegetables or finding creative ways to channel your love of nutrition into an exciting NEW activity.

If you do want to try campus kitchen, you don’t have to wait for a summer internship. Sign-up for a volunteer shift and find out what it is all about. Who knows, you may have a meaningful experience like Hannah. Visit SLU’s campus kitchen webpage to learn more or complete the volunteer application form.

Hannah Sabella is a junior studying Nutrition and Dietetics. When she isn’t leading high school students in mock-Iron Chef competitions, she hits the airwaves on KSLU

By Jessica Moeller-Gaa, DPD Student in Nutrition and Dietetics

Get Inspired by Cafeteria Man

26 Sep

No doubt, many of us will remember the lunches of our school years.  Soy “hockey puck” burgers and gummy pizzas spring to mind for me.  I certainly would have appreciated fresh, whole peaches greeting me the first day of school.  Replacing the syrup-drenched canned peaches was just one of the changes Chef Tony Geraci’s, food service director for Baltimore schools systems, implemented as he reformed the school menu.  Chef Ceraci’s reform efforts are the topic of Cafeteria Man, an award-winning documentary by Richard Chisolm. Over the two years that the film covered, Chef Geraci implemented a 33-acre teaching garden, Meatless Mondays, nutrition education programs and pushed for a central kitchen to provide fresh, local foods to 83,000 students within the city’s school system.

It is an inspiring story full of energy and Chef Geraci is the necessary force to drive change but what comes through in the film is the involvement of the community. It took a team effort to reach these ambitious goals!  The spotlight is definitely on the kids, including the small group who walked into a School Board meeting and fed the members one of their lunches.  They appear to be the initial catalyst for change.  Their input shapes the menu and their voices are heard as far as Washington D.C as the dynamic director pushes for the resources he needs to get rid of the mystery meat!

School lunch reform is a hot topic so the screening would not be complete without a panel discussion with a few local movers and shakers of the school lunch scene.  Brandi Cartwright (Raintree Learning Community), Jill Duncan (Bon Appetit at Washington University) and Robert Rusan (Maplewood Richmond Heights School District) spent a few minutes talking about their efforts to make local, sustainable, healthy foods available.

Slow Food Saint Louis holds screenings once a month at Schlafly Bottleworks for a suggested donation of $5. The next film in the Slow Food Film series is WASTE LAND, an awarding winning film by Lucy Walker. Though it isn’t a foodie film, turning trash into art is an idea with which sustainable-minded folks can get on board.  For more details, visit the Slow Food St. Louis website.

Jessica Moeller-Gaa is a DPD student in the Nutrition & Dietetics program. She prefers food on her plate but in films is OK too.

Farm to Table for Kids

18 Sep

This summer I tried to stay busy while simultaneously relaxing after my ambitious summer class schedule last year. I thought that I would just be volunteering with a dietitian a couple days a week while I scoured the web for food service job opportunities.

I applied to many and got no responses, until one day I check my email and saw an email from Marjorie Sawicki, a professor in the Nutrition Department and Public Health. She was looking for a student to work for her program, Farm to Table for kids, that teaches sustainability and cooking with local produce to kids ages 5-13 at the Belleville Old Town Market, a farmer’s market. The program receives a Federal Grant to purchase materials for the class.

After the kids cook with produce purchased at the market, they sample it and then pass out samples to the farmers and other vendors at the market and build a relationship with the farmers. They get to see the face that grows their food and personally thank them for caring about their food and bringing it into town for people to buy.

It is an experience that I will cherish and it developed me as a future dietitian. It also opened my eyes to other opportunities in community nutrition. I could have easily missed the chance to participate in this if i didn’t open that email.

So, what should you do with your summers?

  • Work in food service hospital tray lines or other settings.  Apply early on and do not wait like I did because when I knew it was time to get some food service experience, I did not get any interviews. So, open those doors before you need them.
  • Search for food service or nutrition education volunteer opportunities. Some good resources to find these opportunities are other students, teachers, the Department’s SLU Global page, or are all good places to start.
  • Contact local dietitians, shadow them and take on whatever tasks they are willing to give you.
  • Write it ALL down! Keep a running list of activities in which you participate.  Include the frequency and tasks that you did while there.

Ashley Downs is a senior in the undergraduate program of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University and the SLUDA President.

A Response to Hunger in a 3rd world country

8 Feb

Over Winter break, I was fortunate enough to partake in SLU’s Global Medical Brigades, a club dedicated to holistic medical practice. Participants are mostly undergrad college students supported by health professionals from the U.S and the guest country, Ghana, Africa. Just the airplane ride to and from Ghana was a nutrition experience, between airplane food and the wear and tear the body experiences with little sleep and little exercise. Upon our arrival in Ghana, we were greeted in the airport with KFC signs everywhere! It’s one of the only “American” restaurants I encountered while abroad. The hustle and bustle of the airport and the capital city, Accra, were comparable, if not more hectic, than the streets of New York or other major cities! Women and men alike carry all different kinds of goods on their heads, but mostly they carry on their heads food items in woven baskets while standing in the middle of dense traffic! Common items hawkers sell include sugar bread, FanIce (a kind of ice cream), bananas, plantain chips, fried calamari, pineapples, oranges, coconuts, candies and cookies, and beverages, especially bottled or bagged water. Sugar bread tastes just as good as it sounds, like a Hawaiian roll but instead made into a loaf. Most days in clinic, we would enjoy sugar bread with peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwiches! Yum! FanIce is this delicious ice cream, unlike any ice cream I’d ever had before. It tastes like Jet Puff marshmallow cream with vanilla icing (or frosting, one of the two!). It comes in a little bag that you rip open with your teeth. Plantain chips are dried and salted plantains or banana chips. Plantains are small and sweeter while bananas are bigger.

Drinking a fresh coconut!

During our stay, all of us on brigade ate well. A hot breakfast always consisted of sautéed veggies, sugar bread with butter and mango jam, egg crepes, and, my personal favorite, freshly squeezed pineapple juice! It was always a delicious feast for breakfast and dinner, too. Dinner we usually had a lot of rice with fish and chicken as well as their spicy red pepper sauce (which I absolutely loved!) Ever since the trip, I’ve been eating more vegetables for breakfast than before!

Going into the village, Aboano, for clinic everyday was so enjoyable. The first day in the village was hard with the language barrier as well as the societal norms for appropriate dress and behaviors that we, even as guests, had to adhere to. Everyone in the village was extremely friendly and grateful for us. As we got to know the people in town, we came to understand their needs for health care and health care promotion. The latter is where many of us brigaders came to help; we were the “sidewalk salesmen” for promoting good nutrition, physical activity (stretching and proper lifting technique), malaria prevention, and the importance of clean water, just to name a few. Of course, my favorite part was getting to know their eating habits.

Like in the U.S., the townspeople were most concerned with their hypertension and obesity. With the coast just right in their backyard, most adults are farmers and fishermen. Some of their common foods are fish, corn, fresh fruit, tomatoes, potatoes, and goat’s milk. They also eat a lot of fried versions of these foods, especially the fish and some fruit. Fufu is extremely important as a staple food as well as a utensil for eating soups. Fufu is essentially a think paste made up of boiled potatoes, corn, and other root vegetables they have available. They pack it into a moist ball whereby you then make an indentation in the ball and scoop up the stew or soup you are eating and, finally, swallowing the fufu itself. You are not supposed to chew fufu since it is generally frowned upon. Therefore fufu not only serves as a food but also as a utensil! A very similar food they also make is banku, which is eaten in the same way, only it has a vinegary, bitter taste to it. It is considered a delicacy!

From a nutrition standpoint, these people are fortunate that they are able to get natural variety from their location near the coast and the wealth of fruits and vegetables that are available to them as farmers. The problem is that they get into a rut of eating fried fish and rice, or fufu with stew and baked fish, which is all fine but only in moderation. Even with the readily available amount of fruit, such as coconuts and bananas and oranges, people do not eat them as part of a balanced diet. Processed sugar is a major combatant as most of the prepackaged foods are new, hot items for them. Already, most of their breads are sweeter and have less whole grain than recommended.

Clean water is not an easy commodity in the Central Region, where many children we saw suffered from intestinal problems and a few children with instances of kwashikor, where their bellies protrude due to protein deficiency. The children do suffer from some malnutrition or dehydration, but it is really not as much of a problem as one might expect. Ghana, for the most part, is a growing African nation that really is very well off in terms of availability of foods as a natural resource. Clean water is still a rare commodity. Because of this problem, townspeople purchase bagged water, which is a thin plastic, 8 fl. oz bag filled with water, or bottled water. These plastic methods, though helpful in curbing the number of intestinal diseases, has lead to an environmental ordeal. To overhaul this system, a portion of our mission was to supply the townspeople with LifeStraws. LifeStraws are in-home filters, able to take pond water from their local source and turn it into 99.99% pure water. It was the most memorable experience for me installing a LifeStraw into a family’s home. The look of gratitude and joy the adults and children had over their faces as well as their reaction was unforgettable. The mother, Ester, even got down on her knees and praised God for bringing us to her. It was a humbling and unique experience that I will not forget.With the help of Penn State’s brigade, we were able to see close to 1,000 patients during our five clinic days in the village of Aboano, located within the Central Region of Ghana. We gave out prescriptions, mostly for anti-malaria, hypertension, and antiparasitic medications as well as over the counter multivitamins, various creams, and acetaminophen. We helped clean and bandage children’s wounds, including mostly fungal infections and lacerations around the foot, because most children walk barefoot on the rocky, uneven ground. We got to give them dental care, teaching the children how to brush their teeth and offering fluoride trays. Providing them with a source of clean, fresh water and teaching them how to care for their bodies was one of the most important tasks in teaching health promotion so that they can eventually stop taking medications.

With free health care being offered by Brigaders like us, eventually people in Aboano will live healthier, more sustainable lives.

What an amazing cultural experience it was!


Gretchen Landgraf is a junior in the undergraduate program of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University


Gabby Geerts answers – “What is SLUDA? “

31 Oct

SLUDA.  What’s that all about?  Yes, it is the catchy acronym for Saint Louis University Dietetic Association, but it stands for much more than that.  And what better way to highlight this than the classic grade school acrostic?

Service.  It is important for us to give back to the community through charitable acts and volunteering.  Our involvement is focused around health and well being.  This year we are working with Campus Kitchen ( to help combat hunger in the Saint Louis Community and are coordinating an Empty Bowls ( fundraiser.

Leadership.  Within the group there is a handful of positions available for students to become directly involved in leadership roles but indirectly the entire group leads by example through our acts of service and efforts to raise awareness of health related issues.

Unity.  SLUDA members range from freshman to senior to graduate students but one would never guess that based on the cohesiveness of the group.  We work, play, study, and often eat together.

Driven.  Whether it be in the classroom, an intramural game, or doing the dishes in Fresh Gatherings, effort is always at 100%.  This attitude can be seen through our commitment to making SLUDA not only a legitimate group but also an influential group on campus.

Awesome.  Really no need to elaborate on this one other than the fact that all the members, meetings, and group outings are awesome.


Gabby Geerts – SLUDA Service Committee Leader