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Nutrition Beyond Borders

Honors College Chronicles

Most people’s daily lives include sleep, social interaction, and food. The last is most important to junior Dietetics major and Robert E. Cook Honors College member Janelle Porter.

Janelle Porter

“I had an internship last summer with an organization called Food for the Hungry (FH),” Porter said. The association works in more than a score of developing countries, providing disaster and emergency relief for inhabitants. Among FH’s programs are child development, HIV/AIDS, health, and Porter’s area of expertise: food.
“I went to Bolivia with the organization and helped it with a study of the local determinants of malnutrition,” Porter said. Her research consisted of surveying mothers of children between birth and fifty-nine months, who are living in the mountainous and rural regions of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

The survey asked the women about health care, child care, and child feeding practices, as well as psychosocial issues—depression and alcoholism. “I helped gather information for the survey,” she explained. “I went to the communities where the survey was issued and entered and analyzed data from the study.”

Since her internship ended, Porter has been working on completing an Independent Study, based on her research, with Food and Nutrition professor Rita Johnson.

During her first study-abroad experience, Porter spent a lot of time “just observing and soaking it all in.” She says the dichotomy of the social classes is what amazed her the most. “It reminded me that I was thankful to live in America,” she said, “but it also put a permanent soft place in my heart for people who don’t even have a basic necessity of life: good, healthy food.”

When not researching culture and food in foreign countries, Porter plays ice hockey for the IUP’s women’s club team and serves as one of the Community Committee leaders for the Student Dietetics Association.

Porter takes pride in her work and believes that people “should not limit themselves to just what they see in front of them, but get outside of their comfort zone and really think about the amazing things we can do by studying nutrition.”

Of her days in Bolivia, Porter said, “The experience gave me a taste of research and got me really excited about doing it in the future.”