With support from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Community Partnership Program, new initiatives from the Linus Pauling Institute’s Healthy Youth Program seek to make an impact on cancer rates in Oregon communities.

High school summer interns preparing herbs from the garden for recipe samples at the farm stand (Left to right: Alana Hilkey, Curtis Bradford, Nupoor Patil, Elena Cordes, Lauren Reichman, Natalie Walker, Annabelle Burright, and McKenna Mulvey)

School Garden Harvest Boxes, or Cajas de Cosecha, is designed to serve local families. In the true spirit of a community project, the Healthy Youth Program staff are collaborating with local youth, Oregon State University students, and various community members. Their goal is to provide produce from school gardens and local farms to families in need.

This partnership brings together resources from the Corvallis School District, the Benton County Health Department, and about a dozen local farms.

Focusing nutrition education around cancer prevention, the program encourages consumption of fresh produce. This often involves shifting community norms about what constitutes “good nutrition.”

Each week, selected families participate in a farm stand event located at their school garden where they choose fruit and vegetables for their Harvest Box. Here they also receive nutrition education materials that explain the health benefits of the foods they have chosen and have the option to have a nurse from the Linus Pauling Institute take weight and blood pressure measurements.

Ten high school interns serve as the backbone of the project. They provide the support necessary to make farm stand events more than a place to pick up groceries. Therefore, the Harvest Box Project serves a second purpose: to provide a work-and-learn experiential internship for high school students.

Harvest Box containing peppers, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, salad greens, grapes and garlic.

At the farm stand, high school interns are running the show. Some of the students wash, prepare and set up baskets of produce. Others take to cooking and serving samples of the recipe of the week in an outdoor kitchen.

Additionally, interns engage children attending in educational activities, giving parents the time to select their weekly produce with fewer distractions.

Through these weekly farm stand events, the high school students learn about sustainable farming, food systems, and community nutrition.

Supervising the project is the manager of the Healthy Youth Program, Candace Russo. In addition to acting as a source of nutrition information, Russo administers the program surveys to parents to gather feedback. Ultimately, these surveys act as measures of the program’s success.

Preliminary results from the surveys indicate that changes are happening. Families are trying Harvest Boxes recipes at home. With fruit and vegetables readily accessible, the program seems to overcoming some barriers to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.

A rainbow of colors is represented in the produce from the farm stand each week.

Next summer, the Healthy Youth Program seeks to incorporate family cooking classes, and build recipes around specific fruits and vegetables with anti-cancer properties. They also hope to be able to package this program for use in other communities.

The Healthy Youth Program would like to thank the following local farms who have generously donated produce to the farm stand throughout the summer:

Kith and Kin Farm, Roundhouse Farm, Red Hat Melons, Camron Ridge Farm, Beene Family Farm, Kiger Island Farms, Fairfield Farms, Stahlbush Island Farms and Gathering Together Farm.

The Harvest Box Program will run into late September 2018. Results of the program will be featured in a future Monthly Update from the LPI. If you would like to get involved or provide financial support, please email the Healthy Youth Program at hyp@oregonstate.edu.


Research Also Uncovers a New, Better Way to Test for Vitamin E

Almonds are a good source of vitamin E. Photo courtesy of healthaliciousness.com.

New research from Linus Pauling Institute Principal Investigator and Ava Helen Pauling Professor Maret Traber, Ph.D., has shown that people with metabolic syndrome need significantly more vitamin E – which could be a serious public health concern, in light of the millions of people who have this condition that’s often related to obesity. Continue reading


Nutrition’s legacy as a “soft science”

Nutrition has always been considered a “soft science”—a field rife with studies showing associations but no firm causation. Conclusive trials in humans are very difficult to do, and long-term studies assessing disease prevention are often cost prohibitive. In the past, the status quo was to do studies with laboratory animals to test whether a certain food or nutrient had an effect on cancer incidence or the hardening of arteries that can lead to heart disease or another such end point, but this approach lacked a critical element: the “why” was missing. “Something went in, something possibly resulted from it, but what happened in-between was largely a black box,” said Linus Pauling Institute Director and Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Balz Frei, PhD. “What was lacking was mechanisms.”

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Recent headlines linking folic acid and autism are misleading and potentially dangerous. Photo credit: Tatiana Vdb // Flickr
Recent headlines linking folic acid and autism are misleading and potentially dangerous. Photo credit: Tatiana Vdb // Flickr

Last week, many in the nutrition and medical fields let out a collective sigh. That’s because there is good quality nutrition research, from actual humans in randomized control trials, showing the importance of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy. Taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid (the form of folate found in most supplements) can prevent birth defects associated with the brain and spinal cord. And organizations like the March of Dimes have done a good job getting the word out about folic acid to women of childbearing age. The FDA even just announced it would allow corn flour to be fortified with folic acid, in order to prevent birth defects among women who eat corn as a staple in their diet.

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