NIU Gets $930,000 Grant to Help Teach Math & Science Using Food

Melani Duffrin

Northern Illinois University was given a $930,000 Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) by the National Institutes of Health for a program that teaches kids math and science using food.

FoodMASTER was developed by NIU health sciences professor, Melani Duffrin, beginning in 1999 while she was at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Duffrin, who is a Registered Dietitian, used her food-based curriculum as a way of encouraging underserved and minority students in rural Appalachian Ohio to consider careers in the sciences.

From there, Duffrin moved on to East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where she continued to expand the FoodMASTER program throughout the South.

Last year, Duffrin joined the faculty at NIU and the new NIH grant will continue to fund the FoodMASTER program for another five years.

FoodMASTER incorporates hands-on and virtual programs that use food to teach subjects such as biology, chemistry, microbiology, algrebra, and geometry. The FoodMASTER website explains the practical aspect of the curriculum:

“Kids and adults alike interact with food everyday. Without even realizing it, we are exposed to dozens of mathematical and scientific concepts almost every time we prepare food! That makes food an exceptional tool for teaching math and science to virtually all ages.”


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