Honors In Action Entry for 2013

1. Provide a brief abstract or summary of your Honors in Action project including the following components: academic research and analysis, leadership roles, leadership development, action, collaboration, reflection and outcomes.

                  The Iota Zeta chapter Honors in Action project for 2012-2013 is Food for Thought, For Life. This project stems from the theme The Competition of Food. To begin the planning process, chapter officers and advisors met with the Cultural Arts Committee (CAC), which is a group of faculty that plans cultural activities for the college. With their help, Iota Zeta was able to team with the Mississippi Humanities Council to attain funding, academic speakers, and use of the title and logo for Food for Thought, For Life.

                  The academic research for the Iota Zeta chapter Honors in Action project began in the spring semester of 2012. The Cultural Arts Committee and Iota Zeta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa partnered to host two guest speakers and two panel discussions. The first speaker was Dr. Benjy Mikel, who gave information about the mass production of food in America in his presentation entitled Food: Is Feeding the Masses a Competition? The second speaker was Dr. Ralph Didlake, who presented the topic Food from a Bioethics Perspective, which included the ethics of using pesticides on crops, meat by-products in the production of meat, and steroids to enhance certain animals used for slaughter. After each seminar, a panel discussion was held to debate the topics presented by each speaker. These seminars and panel discussions provided information the chapter needed to begin planning the action portion of the Honors in Action project.

                  In the fall of 2012, Iota Zeta leaders and CAC faculty again met to brainstorm ideas to get the campus of Northeast Mississippi Community College thinking more critically about what to eat. The ensuing discussion led to the adoption of an interdisciplinary book to be read campus-wide, and through consensus, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan was chosen.  The book presents information about eating whole foods rather than foods that have been chemically engineered and how the diversity of certain regions of the nation causes the culture to eat a certain way.  Additionally, the Vice President of Scholarship asked instructors to incorporate the book into their curricula to entice students to read it.  Dr. Jill Cooley from the University of Mississippi Southern Foodways Alliance was invited to give an opposing viewpoint to the one presented in the book In Defense of Food. To engage students, two student-led debates were held to argue for or against the points presented in the book and by Dr. Cooley. Three Northeast students participated as debaters. At the end of the series, a video was shown of a Ted Talks seminar presented by Dr. T. Collin Campbell entitled Resolving the Healthcare Crisis. At that viewing, the Iota Zeta chapter partnered with the Culinary Arts department to provide an array of healthy finger foods.

                  Once the students had ample time to contemplate and analyze the ideas and viewpoints discussed in the student debates and video, Iota Zeta challenged the NEMCC student body by hosting a Healthy Food Week from October 29 to November 2. Each day represented a different healthy food that students were supposed to eat: Meatless Monday, Turkey Tuesday (white meat only), Whole Wheat Wednesday, Tropical Fruit Thursday, and Low Fat Friday. Students were asked to participate and, at the end of the week, fill out a survey comprised of five questions to evaluate their views on healthy eating and how they changed because of the presentations sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa.

                  To go along with Healthy Food Week, an Iota Zeta Vice President of Leadership, along with a member who is a Culinary Arts major, filmed a series of cooking videos showing how to prepare healthy meals. In addition, the Iota Zeta administrative assistant compiled a cookbook of healthy recipes and published it on the chapter webpage for students to download


                  Food for Thought, For Life provided many leadership opportunities for Iota Zeta members and officers. The leadership roles included student debaters who led the discussions of In Defense of Food, the Vice President of Scholarship who suggested the book, the Vice President of Leadership who filmed the videos, the Culinary Arts student who starred in the video, the Iota Zeta officers who met with and collaborated with the CAC, and the Iota Zeta members who organized Health Week. From these roles, Iota Zeta members developed skills in communications, collaboration, critical thinking, event planning, using technology in events, brainstorming, and thinking outside the box when developing ideas.

                  Surveys indicated that students expected to be more mindful of healthy choices in selecting what they eat because of what they learned from this project.  If educating the student body can make a difference, perhaps educating the surrounding community could have similar results and make a difference in the health of Mississippians.


2. What theme in the current Honors Program Guide did your chapter focus on?

The Iota Zeta chapter focused on Theme 6 in the Honors Program Guide: Food Fight! Competition and Food. The Mississippi Humanities Council then provided the title and logo of Food for Thought, For Life, which was used to promote the seminars and other events related to the project.


3. Why did you choose this theme?

Food Fight! Competition and Food was chosen because of the growing trend in healthy eating in the United States.  Mississippi ranks first in the nation in obesity, so the Iota Zeta chapter took this into consideration when selecting a theme that would spark the chapter’s interest, increase student participation, and have the potential to impact people’s lives.



4. List the 8 academic/expert sources that were most valuable to you in your examination of the Honors Study Topic Theme

1.              Campbell, T. Collin. The China Study. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books. 2005. Print.

This book was used as a study reference by some faculty so they could better explain the links between diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and to use as a reference during the TEDx video.

2.              Cooley, Jill PhD. “Greens, and Tomatoes, and Beans…Oh My!  Making the Food Movement Relevant in North Mississippi.”  Presented in a seminar at Northeast Mississippi Community College. 25 September 2012.

This presentation provided an academic opinion that contradicted the content of In Defense of Food. This allowed the students to be exposed to different ideas so they could form their own opinions of the book.

3.              Didlake, Ralph PhD. “Food from a Bioethics Perspective”. Presented in a seminar at Northeast Mississippi Community College. 6 March 2012.

This presentation informed the students of the different ethical issues that are raised in today’s food market.

4.              Ford, Sandra. “Obesity in Mississippi”. Presented in a Panel Discussion at Northeast Mississippi Community College. 8 March 2012.

Mrs. Ford was a panelist who discussed obesity in Mississippi and presented less expensive alternatives to costly health food.

5.              Forks Over Knives. Dir. Lee Fulkerson.  Film.

A portion of this documentary was shown to provide more information on the health benefits of a vegan diet.

6.              Mikel, Bingy. “Food: Is Feeding The Masses a Competition?” Presented in a seminar at Northeast Mississippi Community College. 28 February 2012.

This presentation was important because it presented an opposing viewpoint to Dr. Didlake’s presentation and showed that some chemical engineering of food is necessary.

7.              Pollan, Micheal.  In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York, NY: Penguin Books. 2009. Print.

Mr. Pollan’s book is the basis for the action portion of our Honors in Action project. In Defense of Food jump-started ideas for Healthy Food Week.

8.              TEDx, Resolving the Health Care Crisis. TED.com

This video provided information and testimony on how changing to a vegan diet will cure or greatly reduce certain health issues caused by obesity, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.


5. What conclusions did your chapter reach based on your research?

       Dr. Benjy Mikel from Mississippi State University and Dr. Ralph Didlake from the University of Mississippi Medical Center made it clear to Northeast students and Iota Zeta that, as a market, food lingers in a delicate balance between quantity over quality. The students realized that without the chemical additives, products with short shelf lives would spoil faster, thereby increasing production and driving up cost. However, some additives can harm a person’s health, so healthy alternatives should be devised. It also was evident that some healthier alternatives to chemically engineered food can be expensive.

         These factors gave Iota Zeta insight into the choices food manufacturers have to face:  create ethical, healthful foods that are more expensive, or bring in bigger profits by mass producing cheaper foods. The panel discussions brought light to the growing problem of obesity in Mississippi and how it is a bigger problem in the economically declined areas of Mississippi. The conclusions drawn from this information were that healthier food is not as accessible to people with lower incomes because of its higher price. Further, it became clear that people prefer an unhealthy diet to save money.


6. Summarize your objectives for this Honors in Action project and the process by which the chapter set these objectives.

                  When the conclusions in question 5 were drawn, Iota Zeta officers and advisors met with faculty from the CAC on several occasions to develop specific objectives and to develop a plan for implementation.  The process began with brainstorming that led to the decision to implement a campus-wide reading program.  Under the guidance of the committee, Iota Zeta officers explored book options. The mention of Mr. Pollan’s In Defense of Food began dialogue concerning appropriateness of the book for community college students. The Vice President of Scholarship advised that the honors students should rise to the challenge and comprehend the complexity of the book.

                  The final objectives were as follows: (1) Promote critical thinking among students about their personal food choices. (2) Implement a campus wide reading project. (3) Educate students about healthy food choices. (4) Survey students about change in their personal eating habits.


7. With whom did you collaborate for this Honors in Action project.

                  In order to make this project campus wide, Iota Zeta enlisted the help of the Cultural Arts Committee. Fortunately, the committee was aware that Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) had a major focus on food and that they could assist in planning the programs and providing funding. The MHC provided the logo and title for the project. The CAC invited Dr. Didlake, Dr. Mikel, and Dr. Cooley to give presentations. In addition, chapter members collaborated with faculty when they asked instructors to participate in the panel discussions and to incorporate the book into their curricula.  Other collaborators included the Culinary Arts department, who provided healthy food samples at one of the seminars, and a Culinary Arts student who was used in the cooking videos. Local pharmacist Amanda Wilburn provided valuable information on caloric intake that was used in a pamphlet to promote Healthy Food Week.


8. Describe the leadership roles undertaken by the chapter that contributed to the development and implementation of this Honors in Action project.

                  Iota Zeta members who contributed to Food for Thought, For Life undertook leadership roles such as participating in brainstorming and planning ideas for the various programs. The student-led debates involved leadership on behalf of the students who debated. Also, the Vice President of Scholarship wrote letters to all teachers asking them to use In Defense of Food in their classes and took the initiative to talk to the pharmacist who provided the information for the flyer.  A chapter member was in charge of filming and editing the cooking videos. Any work that needed to be completed was done by a Phi Theta Kappa member.


9. Describe specific leadership development actions taken that helped chapter members be more effective leaders for this Honor in Action Project.

      Iota Zeta leaders were mentored by Cultural Arts Committee members on things such as how to find funding for programming and how to plan a public event.  Because of the committee’s help, they learned how to link into established agencies such as the Mississippi Humanities Council.

      The students who led the debate were coached by Northeast speech professor Dr. Bill Stone. Those three members learned critical skills on how to present opinions in a debate.

Throughout the event many emails were sent, and the chapter officers learned proper wording for business email.  Other members learned how to conduct research by gathering information for Healthy Food Week.

       Iota Zeta members who helped in Healthy Food Week had to talk to students and explain why the event was planned. This developed social skills every leader needs.

 Through the use of the cooking videos, members involved learned how to utilize technology and editing software and how to speak on camera.

The most important leadership skill developed from this project was a good work ethic. Iota Zeta officers and members have spent countless hours researching, collaborating with teachers, compiling information, planning, setting up venues, and even filming.

10: Describe the service or “action” components of this Honors in Action project that were inspired by your Honors Study Topic research.

                  When the Honors Study Topic concluded, Iota Zeta members realized that Mississippi needs to be inspired to eat healthier. The action portion involved getting the book In Defense of Food implemented into the curriculum. A survey revealed that 44 members of the Northeast faculty either used the book in class or gave students extra credit for reading it. The book goes in depth about the health benefits of eating whole foods like our ancestors did.

After studying the book, Dr. Cooley was brought in to argue that Mr. Pollan’s suggestion that we eat as our ancestors did does not apply to Mississippians, because our ancestors were mostly sharecroppers who could not afford vegetables and had to eat animal fat because it was cheap.          

       After both sides of the augment were made, three students were chosen to lead two debates that evoked other students to speak their opinions as well.

      Finally, to promote critical thinking about personal food choices and to get students to change their diets, Healthy Food Week was planned for October 29 through November 2.  Each day represented a different healthy food students were supposed to eat: Meatless Monday, Turkey Tuesday (white meat only), Whole Wheat Wednesday, Tropical Fruit Thursday, and Low Fat Friday. Students across campus were asked to participate by changing at least one meal each day to follow the theme. All these things together helped to expose students to the idea of healthier eating habits.


 11: What were the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of your project, including lessons learned by your chapter members and others?

                  When Food For Thought, For Life began, attendance at the first seminar was 84.  Attendance rose to 123 by the fourth seminar.  

    Iota Zeta received credible quantitative information from the survey that was previously mentioned. Of 135 students surveyed, 95.5% believed that Food for Thought, For Life would encourage healthy eating habits, while the other 4.5% believed that students’ eating habits would stay the same.

    Question two asked this: “Michael Pollan stated in the book In Defense of Food, ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’  On a scale of 1 to 5, how closely does this statement reflect on your current diet?” Answers ranged from 3% for 1, 25% answered 2, 49% answered 3, 16% answered 4, 5% answered 5, and 2% skipped the question.


     On the next question, (“On a scale of 1 to 5, how easy was if for you to implement the health series items into your diet?”), 11% answered 1, 39% answered 2, 42% answered 3, 15% answered 4, and 3% answered 5.

       On question four (“On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely are you to improve your eating habits based on what you have learned?”), 0.7% answered 1, 15% answered 2, 21% answered 3, 43% answered 4, 19% answered 5, and 0.3% skipped.

       On the final question, (“After completing this series, have you become more educated on healthy eating habits?”), 3.7% said no, 95.5% said yes, and 0.8% skipped the question.  The qualitative lessons learned from the project were that, even if students do not immediately change their eating habits, the ideas of Food for Thought, For Life will still be in their minds when they make future choices about healthy eating.


12: What is left undone?

                  If they choose to continue with this project, future Iota Zeta members have the groundwork to support an even bigger project that can reach not only the student body at Northeast, but also the surrounding community. Therefore, the next logical step would be to try and reach beyond the bounds of the college and make a difference in the community.


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