Casper College Nutrition Student Helps Launch Pediatric Nutrition and Weight Management Program in Wyoming

By: Lisa S. Icenogle
image of children in a classroom.

Daniel Meier, currently a student in the Casper College Associate of Science in Nutrition Program, is working to address the issue of childhood obesity. Through a collaboration between Casper Children’s Center and the Campus Kitchen at Casper College, Meier helped develop CCC’s Pediatric Nutrition and Weight Management Program. The program, supervised by Dr. Shelley Springer, is now helping local children and their families learn about and adopt lifelong approaches to healthful living.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Childhood Obesity Facts, “In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970’s. Data from 2015-2016 show that nearly one in five school-age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity.”

For Meier, a Wyoming native, finding a balance of healthful living habits is a recent change. When asked about why he chose nutrition as a major Meier said, “Health and fitness have always been a personal interest, but it has also become an invaluable piece of my personal success as a recovering substance abuse addict. If we look at healthy habits as a continuum, substance abuse is clearly on the unhealthy end of the spectrum, whereas a healthful diet, good self-care, and exercise are on the healthful end of the spectrum. Immersing myself in the nutrition curriculum has been key to my recovery process. The depth of knowledge offered by the coursework in this program has provided me the opportunity to explore career avenues. Nutrition as a scientific discipline is still relatively new, with much left to be explored. The field is rapidly changing with new discoveries ongoing. Personal growth is a strong value of mine, so it was fitting to choose a field that required continual academic growth.” One of the experiences Meier has utilized to explore the field of nutrition and to develop leadership skills is acting as the current club president for the CKCC.

The CKCC is a chapter of The Campus Kitchens Project, the leading national nonprofit that empowers students to simultaneously fight hunger and reduce food waste. Students partner with on-campus dining services to help prepare healthy, balanced meals to local families in need while developing partnerships and programming to help target the root causes of hunger and food insecurity. When Meiers heard about the program, he immediately began attending meetings and working hard to help the program grow. When asked about why he joined the CKCC, Meier simply responded, “Service is a high personal value of mine.”

Environmental Science Instructor Kelsey Phillips, Ph.D., advises for the Associate of Science degree in nutrition and acts as the program coordinator for the CKCC. Phillips first met Meier at summer enrollment as a transfer student. “Daniel showed a passion for the subject material (nutrition) that was truly spectacular. It was clear in our first meeting that he was very goal-oriented and determined to succeed. He also shared his passion for service, so I told him about the CKCC; he immediately joined the leadership team.” Phillips’ role as program coordinator for the CKCC is to help students develop innovative solutions to food waste, hunger, and finding ways to prevent hunger. “I’m here as a coach for students, but ultimately, the students are the driving force of the program. They are responsible for orchestrating all aspects of the program. It is designed to provide students of all disciplines the leadership experience they will need in their future careers.” According to Phillips, Meier quickly emerged as a leader by helping develop a sustainable leadership structure. Within one semester on the team, Meier’s work at the CKCC was recognized by The CKP when he was selected for a travel award to attend the 2018 Food Waste and Hunger Summit – a national conference designed to bring together student leaders from across the country to develop solutions to the interrelated problems of food waste and food insecurity. As part of the leadership team, Meier was also required to obtain ServSafe Manager Certification, which helped him secure a promotion at his full-time job at a local restaurant.

Having seen the success of the CKCC in the community, and hopeful to recruit a student leader to spearhead the Pediatric Nutrition and Weight Management Program, Springer of Casper Children’s Center, reached out to Phillips. CCC, Springer’s practice that she has grown out of Dr. Granum’s previous pediatric practice, embraces the concept of evidence-based medicine, which integrates individual clinical experience, best external evidence, and patient values and expectations into a holistic approach to pediatric care. CCC is certified as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the State of Wyoming – a care paradigm that emphasizes patient-centered and high quality comprehensive primary care for its patients. “Caring for the children and families in Casper, I could see the need for a comprehensive nutrition and weight management program, geared for the pediatric population, and centered within the medical home,” said Springer. Phillips quickly identified Meier as a student ready for the challenge. Eager to utilize the academic knowledge Meier had gained in the college’s nutrition program, and the leadership skills he’d developed as part of the CKCC leadership team, Meier accepted the challenge.

Over the summer of 2018, while also working full time at a local restaurant, Meier and Springer worked together to develop the Pediatric Nutrition and Weight Management Program. The program launched in August 2018 and Meier is now regularly working with pediatric patients and their families. According to Springer, success stories are already occurring.

When asked to sum up her thoughts about CCC’s new program, Phillips said, “It’s exciting to see Mr. Meier working towards his goal of becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist. The program Dr. Springer and Mr. Meier have developed was critically needed, and I’m truly thankful for Dr. Springer’s continued efforts to offer comprehensive pediatric care to the children and families in our state, and I’m thankful to her for reaching out.”

Meier summarized by stating, “I’m extremely grateful that my service in the CKCC and my academic studies have prepared me for the opportunity to work with Dr. Springer. I am gaining invaluable work experience and, I’m making a difference by helping families. My desire is to help our patients take small, sustainable steps that will have lasting effects on their quality of life. I want to help our patients lead healthier lives, and I am making a difference in the fight against childhood obesity.”

“I am excited about the program and proud to see what Mr. Meier has accomplished for Casper Children’s Center,” said Dr. Springer.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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