Dr. Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, Director of the School-Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Laboratory
Leslie Cunningham Sabo, PhD, RDN
Leslie has led federally-funded school- and community-based nutrition intervention research projects for more than 20 years, using a community-based participatory research approach. She has spent time working with diverse populations in both rural and urban school districts and communities to design, implement, and evaluate nutrition and physical activity programs for both children and adults. Leslie has expertise in the development of dietary and food choice assessment tools. A recent focus has been to determine the impact of experiential cooking interventions on children’s fruit and vegetable preferences, and cooking attitudes and self-efficacy. Currently, Leslie serves as Project Director for “Fuel for Fun: Cooking with Kids plus Parents and Play.” This is a 5-year, nearly $2.5M childhood obesity prevention project applied research activities, training of future scientists, and translation of findings to school and community settings. Leslie also teaches a graduate nutrition education and theory course and an undergraduate community nutrition course. For fun, Leslie enjoys gardening, hiking, snowshoeing, biking and kayaking with husband Mark and other family and friends.
Xanna Burg, MPH
Xanna currently serves as the Research Coordinator for Fuel for Fun. Xanna completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at the University of Georgia and her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU. Xanna worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in the lab and has a background working with schools and communities to teach nutrition and cooking classes, build and maintain school gardens, and support farm to school efforts. Xanna is passionate about ensuring youth have the best chance to grow up healthy through policy, systems, and environment work. In her free time, Xanna enjoys gardening, quilting, and hiking or backpacking in the mountains.
Stephanie Smith, PhD, RDN
Stephanie is a registered dietitian nutritionist and received her doctorate in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. Her research focused on the implementation and evaluation of behavioral economics-based strategies to increase middle school student vegetable consumption with school lunch. She currently is an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Colorado and collaborates with researchers on Fuel for Fun to assist with data analysis and contribute to manuscripts. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys hiking with her husband and two golden retrievers, cycling, and reading.
Jessica Clifford, MS, RDN
Extension Nutrition Specialist
Jessica is an Extension Nutrition Specialist at Colorado State University in the Department of Food Science Human Nutrition. In 2013, she received a Master of Science degree in Food Science Human Nutrition from Colorado State University and as part of the program completed a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Upon graduating with her masters, Jessica was hired by the Department of Food Science Human Nutrition to work as an Extension Nutrition Specialist and as the Intervention Coordinator for the Fuel for Fun: Cooking with Kids Plus Parents and Play program. Jessica currently collaborates on Fuel for Fun projects in her role as an Extension Nutrition Specialist. Jessica’s interests include experiential education to improve cooking skills and food preferences as well developing effective nutrition education materials. She enjoys cooking, running, hiking, and traveling.
Melissa Pflugh Prescott, PhD, RD
Melissa assists with data analysis and contributes to manuscripts and grant proposals on the Fuel for Fun project. Melissa also coordinates an integrated research, extension, and education project called Healthy Planet, Healthy Youth. Healthy Planet, Healthy Youth investigates, implements, and evaluates strategies for school food waste reduction and food recovery. She completed her doctoral degree in Public Health at the New York University. Melissa is a registered dietitian, has a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, and completed her undergraduate degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida. Her past experiences include working as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Education and Social Policy (IESP) at NYU and managing a school-based obesity prevention program across seven elementary schools located in Harlem and Washington Heights, NYC. Melissa’s research interests include school food and wellness policies, community-based approaches to childhood obesity prevention, and health disparities.
Alicia is a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University specializing in community nutrition. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Virginia. Alicia has worked in clinical research focused on symptom management and quality of life at VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, VA. She is also experienced in teaching healthy cooking classes with children and preparing school meals for elementary school children of low-income families through her work at Edible Education in Richmond, VA. Alicia contributes to the Fuel for Fun: Cooking with Kids Plus Parents and Play program by assisting with data collection and entry, conducting literature reviews, and providing general program support. Her research interests focus on how the cooking experience changes food behavior and on reducing food waste in creative ways. Alicia's goal is to become a registered dietitian and continue being involved in cooking related research. She wants in her career to provide individuals with the skills and confidence to cook more to improve their health and learn how to reduce their food waste. In her free time, Alicia enjoys running, hiking, cooking, and exploring the outdoors of Colorado.
Cameron is a MPH graduate student in the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU, concentrating on Physical Activities and Healthy Lifestyles. He is currently completing his dietetic internship through Marshall University's Distance Program. Cameron graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition: Dietetics and Johnson & Wales University with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. Most recently Cameron worked with the Eagle County School District in the Nutritional Services department acting as the support specialist for the food services throughout the district. Prior to working in schools, he worked in private restaurants as a chef. After graduation Cameron hopes to pursue a career in the public services sector developing and implementing policy for the National School Lunch program both locally in Colorado and nationally. In his free time, Cameron can often be found on his road bike or snowboard (season dependent), cooking something "fancy" or reading a good book.
Andrew is a second-year graduate student in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at CSU. After getting his undergrad in nutritional science, Andrew discovered how empowering an education in nutrition can be in helping him develop healthy eating habits, and he wants to help others in that same way after he graduates from CSU with his master’s degree and becomes a registered dietitian. Currently, Andrew is working on studying the correlation between diet quality and mealtime regularity with the hopes of helping others improve their diets with his research. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys a variety of hobbies, including baking artisan bread, rollerblading, and studying chess.
Megan is a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University specializing in community nutrition. She works with the Fuel for Fun: Cooking with Kids Plus Parents and Play program and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant within the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Megan graduated from Stony Brook University in New York with a bachelor’s degree in Health Science with a concentration in Public Health & Community Health Education. During her time at Stony Brook, she assisted with the construction and maintenance of school and community gardens as an intern for a student-run service organization. She also gained management experience through her work with the Stony Brook Athletics Fueling Station. Following graduation, Megan wants to become a registered dietitian and incorporate her interests in public health and advocacy into her career. In her free time, you can usually find Megan running, cooking, hiking, or reading a book in a favorite coffee shop.
Sam graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from SUNY Geneseo in 2013. Inspired to seek adventure outside her home state of New York, she moved to Telluride, CO to live the mountain life for three years before returning to academics with a focus on nutrition. Sam decided on dietetics as a career path with the goal of bringing evidence-based nutrition information and programs to the public. Sam hopes to improve food security, child health outcomes, and the local food system through her work in the School Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Lab, as well as in her future career. Within the lab Sam is involved in assisting with systematic reviews and the Fuel For Fun Follow-up study. Sam's Plan B project involves collaboration with EFNEP to design and pilot test a series of 15-minute cooking activities with 3rd through 5th graders for use in EFNEP's nutrition education curriculum. When not diligently working towards these ends Sam spends her time cooking, skiing, hiking, and playing disc golf.
Chelsea Didinger, M.S.
Chelsea is a PhD student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at CSU. She completed her BS in Biology at UC San Diego and then moved to South Korea for several years, where she taught English and got her MS in Biology at Seoul National University. After returning to the US, she worked at UC Santa Cruz as a Scientific Data Analyst. She was also involved with the Homeless Garden Project, a Santa Cruz non-profit that underlines the importance a strong sense of community, a local food system, and nutrition in promoting well-being. She loves how food touches such diverse aspects of our lives and is excited to study nutrition at CSU as a way to combine her interests in biology, teaching, community outreach, and nutrition. Her hobbies include hiking, cooking, traveling, and reading.
Maura graduated with a BA in communications and a minor in nutrition from Simmons College in Boston. Currently, she is a graduate student in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at CSU. Maura has a background in community nutrition working with Registered Dietitians to develop and teach nutrition and culinary education curriculum. She contributes to the School Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Laboratory by aiding with data collection and focus groups for the Fuel for Fun project and helps to measure plate waste in school cafeterias through the Healthy Planet Healthy Youth project. Upon graduation Maura plans to become a Registered Dietitian so she can teach kids and adults alike the tools and skills they need to have a healthy life long relationship with food.
Amy is a MPH graduate student in the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU, concentrating on Nutrition and Dietetics. Amy graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor's degree in biology. Most recently served a year with Americorps, teaching gardening and cooking classes to elementary school students and empowering them to take control of their health and create a healthier planet from farm to fork. During her service with Americorps and through domestic and international undergraduate research experiences, she was able to study and better understand the barriers to healthy eating in different communities through various social-ecological lenses. After graduation Amy hopes to use her registered dietitian training to help individuals become healthier while concurrently becoming involved with organizations and initiatives such as farm-to-school, which promote healthier communities and a healthier environment. In her free time, Amy may be found hiking up the tallest mountain she can find, scheming yet another recipe that combines chocolate and beans, or getting cozy in a coffee shop.