Gordon in the News: last updated 04/14/2014
"We make about 90 food choices a day; that's a lot to consider. Knowledge is power."
Improving the nutritional value of vegetables to address food insecurity worldwide is the focus of Jennifer Noseworthy's research on squash and other members of the gourd family. In addition to teaching biology at Gordon College, Dr. Noseworthy (Gordon '02) is collaborating with a Gordon chemistry major and with University of New Hampshire researchers to test whether tomatoes grown in high tunnel greenhouses have more lycopene than those grown in fields. (read more about her research here)
While earning her Ph.D. in plant biology at the University of New Hampshire, she investigated whether adjusting breeding techniques might make squash and sweet potatoes more nutritious—more precisely, whether it might boost these vegetables' carotenoids (such as lutein and beta-carotene), which increase eye and brain health and may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. She found that it's crucial to leave squash on the vine for a full 70 days, and store them at cool temperatures for a month after the harvest.
Fitness-focused students in her Gordon classes ask her lots of questions: What should I eat in the dining hall? How should I cook vegetables for myself to make sure they're nutritious? (She recommends steaming or roasting.) She helps students appreciate why it's important to include vegetables in their diet, and what "5 a day" looks like. "We make about 90 food choices a day; that's a lot to consider. Knowledge is power," she says.
In spring, sweet potato slips develop in the Gordon greenhouse, destined for fields tended by the Food Project, a Boston and North Shore agency that engages youth workers in growing produce that low-income consumers can purchase with food stamps, or obtain through food assistance programs. Dr. Noseworthy has worked with this project, and plans to become involved with area soup kitchens, too, such as one in Gloucester that teaches people to garden.
A church she attended in New Hampshire before she moved back to the North Shore housed young families in transition, and issues around nutrition and life situations are at the center of her commitment to her work. As she teaches human biology to social work students, she explores how scientists and social scientists approach issues such as obesity. “Social workers have a different viewpoint," she says, “about cultural reasons why people are not eating better food. We need to inspire them to eat well, take care of their health. What you put into your body really is an important thing.”
Slide photo: Dr. Jennifer Noseworthy and Margot Lee '16 planting seedlings.