Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, a faculty member in the Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, has made a career investigating how to promote nutrition education and healthy eating choices in children to help fight childhood obesity. Now, her research with school-based nutrition programs has earned her recognition from the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB).
Cunningham-Sabo was recognized in July with SNEB’s Nutrition Education Research Award, given annually to acknowledge outstanding research achievement in the field of nutrition education.
Cunningham-Sabo has a Ph.D. in Health Education from the University of New Mexico, an M.S. in Human Nutrition from the University of Arizona, and a B.A. in Medical Anthropology from Michigan State University. She is also a registered dietitian and has been with CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition for 11 years.
She has received nearly $5 million in competitive funding awards, and she has an outstanding publications record.
Research that creates change
One of Cunningham-Sabo’s long-time research interests focuses on enhancing cooking experiences as a way to promote healthy food behaviors in children and adults.
“I develop dietary and food choice assessment tools and determine the impact of experiential cooking interventions on children’s diet quality, fruit and vegetable preferences, cooking attitudes and self-efficacy,” she said.
The official announcement from SNEB about her award recognized her outstanding work, “SNEB applauds Cunningham-Sabo’s cutting-edge approach to nutrition research and public health needs. She has conducted many studies and research projects, but her work in cooking intervention research is particularly impressive.”
Cunningham-Sabo’s school-based research programs include Fuel for Fun: Cooking with Kids Plus Parents and Play. This multi-component intervention includes classroom cooking and tasting lessons, “Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids” active recess, initiatives in the cafeteria, online health resources for parents and family and events on and off the school campus.
Her projects have integrated healthy lifestyle changes into schools, which have successfully carried over into the family and home setting.
“Her commitment to quality is always the same. She brings her best effort to each project and expects quality contributions from her colleagues and students as well,” said Susan Baker, professor and Extension specialist in CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and one of many to contribute to her Cunningham-Sabo’s nomination for this prestigious award.
“Without Dr. Cunningham-Sabo’s work, the knowledge we currently have about school-based nutrition education and the current level of programming and evaluation simply wouldn’t exist,” said Barbara Lohse, head of the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition at the Rochester Institute of Technology and one of Cunningham-Sabo’s collaborators and nominators.
The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.