Penn State, Johannesburg researchers collaborate on food service, nutrition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A visiting scholar from South Africa is collaborating with a Penn State hospitality management researcher to present findings and develop further research on food service and nutrition for school children, consumers’ food decisions and the role of the food service industry related to nutrition and obesity.

Hema Kesa, academic department head of the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, is a visiting scholar at Penn State, part of a collaborative international research effort with Amit Sharma, director of the Penn State Food Decisions Laboratory and associate professor of hospitality management.

The pair are presenting “From Garden to Fork: Serving locally grown fruits and vegetables in Johannesburg, South Africa schools,” at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17 in the Foster Auditorium in Paterno Library. Hosted by the University Libraries’ Social Science Library and Penn State’s Interinstitutional Center for Indigenous Knowledge, the presentation also will be viewable online through the University Libraries’ MediaSite

Kesa will discuss the School Foods Garden Programme, a pillar of the National School Nutrition Programme in South Africa, which develops student and volunteer food handlers’ skills in producing school food through gardening. Sharma will discuss “farm to school” programs from an American perspective.

“South Africa wants to encourage children to eat healthier by eating more fruits and vegetables, and this is an opportunity to share about the School Foods Garden Programme, discuss challenges and look at how gardens can be more self-sufficient for schools,” Kesa said.

The pair is also slated to present at the inaugural Interdisciplinary Research Symposium in Foodservice Decisions, a collaborative online event of the Center for Food and Hospitality Research at the Insitut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France on Sept. 21.

Both events are sponsored by the College of Health and Human Development, Food Decisions Research Laboratory, Africana Research Center, Rock Ethics Institute, Center for Global Studies, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Kesa and Sharma will also conduct research for comparative studies in South Africa and the United States, including an in-school experiment to investigate the management efficiency of sourcing locally grown foods and fieldwork on the food service industry’s contribution towards combatting obesity in the United States.

Additionally, Kesa and Sharma will present their research findings to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., as well as to Penn State students.

“Dr. Kesa brings her knowledge and expertise from South Africa, which relates to a common issue that both nations are trying to navigate through,” Sharma said. “It is an incredible opportunity to share knowledge and perspective as part of an international collaboration, and we hope this will lead to additional research that is valuable to all of us.”

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Last Updated May 19, 2016