The FoodMASTER Initiative: Supporting the STEM Learning Pipeline

Project Audience

Teachers of and students in grades 3–5, 6–8, and Higher Education; and dietitians and nutritionists

Subjects Addressed

Nutrition, Food, Science, Math, STEM

Project Description

The FoodMASTER Initiative is a compilation of programs that use food as a tool to teach mathematics and science to students in elementary and middle school, as well as students in higher education. Funded by NIH-SEPA since 2005, FoodMASTERS’s has introduced more than 2,000 teachers to its unique educational curriculum.

Current goals focus on strengthening the science education pipeline for underserved and diverse youth, to help them have opportunities supporting their efforts to compete in a world where mathematics, science, engineering and health-related careers which provide positive economic and community benefits.

The newly formed component “FoodMASTER: Reach to Teach” has introduced more than 1,000 dietitian-nutritionists to its nutrition-science education programs. The component is designed to foster worldwide synergistic relationships between dietitian-nutritionists and teachers.

Dissemination Strategies

The FoodMASTER team has established a Deep South Network comprised of six partnering universities to expand the project.

Additional universities, both nationally and internationally, continue to express partnership interest as FoodMASTER: Reach to Teach experts travel the globe.

Sylvia Escott-Stump, FoodMASTER spokesperson, has visited with dietitian-nutritionists in Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, Thailand, Singapore, and New Hampshire, and was featured on a Chicago-based webinar. She will continue her speaking tour in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, South Dakota, Italy, England, and Mexico.


The FoodMASTER Initiative: Supporting the STEM Learning Pipeline for Underserved, Minority Youth through Informal Science Learning Environments

The following educational research proposal is a request for funding to investigate the impact of the FoodMASTER (Food, Math, and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource) Initiative approach on underserved, minority youth attitudes towards science. The FoodMASTER Initiative is a compilation of programs aimed at using food as a tool to teach basic research, science, and math concepts to grades 3–8 youth. The proposed research project focuses on authentic STEM Education opportunities for underserved, minority youth that positively impact attitudes towards science.

The brief specific aims include 1) creating new FoodMASTER curricular materials, 2) establishing a Deep South Network to serve as a model to others, create new implementation formats and assess impact on attitudes towards science, and 3) creating field trip experiences for underserved minority youth in Eastern North Carolina. Implementing these NIH-SEPA FoodMASTER Initiative specific aims will increase science learning opportunities for underrepresented minorities and impact the health professions STEM pipeline.

Project Photos

Associated SEPA Project(s)

Additional Information

Select Comments from Teachers

“My students absolutely loved FoodMASTER! It was a very motivating learning tool.”
—Jan Slattery, The Plains Elementary, The Plains, Ohio

Students have the freedom to explore math and science concepts within their own learning abilities and parameters.
—Teresa Stoops, Waterford Elementary, Waterford, Ohio

“The hands-on approach offers all students the chance to succeed and the use of food acts as a motivational tool for learning.”
—Julie Hall, Barlow-Vincent Elementary, Vincent, Ohio


“FoodMASTER: Reach to Teach is the first program of its kind, creating relationships between food and nutrition experts (RDNs) and science teachers. The potential impact of this relationship is valuable, as most teachers do not feel comfortable teaching nutrition science. And most registered dietitian-nutritionists do not have the insight to address the daily expectations of a classroom. Together, this team creates a win:win outcome, especially for the children.”

Sylvia Escott-Stump, FoodMASTER Spokesperson, Dietetic Internship Director at East Carolina University, and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

“Nutrition professionals and teachers are uniquely positioned to align efforts that positively impact academic achievement, health, and well-being of children.”

— Melani Duffrin, Professor of Nutrition Science, East Carolina University, and Creator/Principal Investigator of the FoodMASTER Initiative