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Middle School FACS Teachers – Awesome Food Safety Study Opportunity with Perks!

Carol Byrd-Bredbenner of Rutgers University would like to extend an invitation for you to participate in a food safety mini-study. Read the following letter and if you would like to get involved, send her an e-mail. The study will be completed by December 2012, so contact her quickly!

Dear Middle School Teacher,

I am writing to tell you about an exciting project we have underway! Rutgers University and New Mexico State University are inviting interested middle school children in your school to participate in a multi-part study that will help them develop safe food habits.

This study uses ‘video snacks’ and ‘viral marketing’.

• Video snacks are short (approximately 30 to 60 second) fun, animated videos that focus on a single topic (e.g., hand washing, water bottle sharing) using an approach designed to get kids to want to change their behavior (e.g., wash hands before eating, not share drinks, not following the “5-second rule” of eating food that fell on the floor). The video snacks are intended for distribution through peer social networks using ‘viral marketing’ and are available online at a special website we have created.

• Viral marketing involves creating a message that is unique and entertaining enough to compel individuals to share it with others in their social network, such as their friends and family. Advertisers have had great success with viral marketing, but educators have rarely capitalized on its potential to change behaviors.

We are studying whether these video snacks will go ‘viral’ in schools and result in changed behavior, such as more frequent handwashing before eating. If the video snacks change behaviors as anticipated, students will have reduced risk of infections which can reduce school absences.
Each part of the study is described below.

Part 1: Middle schoolers will spend about 10 minutes completing a questionnaire about food safety. This questionnaire is completed online. There are no papers for you to gather or distribute—but, your students will need to be able to access computers at school.

Part 2: A few days after Part 1, middle schoolers will be made aware of the video snacks.
It is not necessary to set aside class time to watch the videos. That’s because one of the important aspects of viral marketing is the feeling that the person has ‘discovered’ something interesting that he or she wants to share with friends. We are developing various methods for you to make students aware of the videos (e.g., posters to hang in your classroom, bookmarks to give students, colorful wrist bracelets to give students, t-shirt contest for your classroom, stickers/magnets, pencils to give students).

Part 3: About 1 week after making students aware of the videos (Part 2), middle schoolers will spend about 10 minutes completing a questionnaire like the one completed in Part 1.

Part 4: About 2 weeks after completing Part 3, student will spend about 10 minutes completing a questionnaire like the one completed in Part 1.

For the purposes of this study, it will be important to NOT teach about food safety until after Part 4.
Participating schools and/or teachers will receive a stipend. The video snacks will be available permanently online so teachers and students can access them in coming years.

In addition to the above, we will want to know about students’ handwashing activities. We will want to know how much soap and paper towels were used in school bathrooms before and after students became aware of the videos (we can use “disappearance” data). At the end of the study, we will also want to briefly interview participating teachers and possibly a few parents.

Participation in this study is voluntary. There is no cost to the school or children to participate. Children will, however, need to have access to computers at school to complete Part 1, 3, and 4. They will need to have access to the internet at or after school to complete Part 2. The study will run between June 2012 until December 2012.

If you have any questions about this project or need more information, please contact me.
I am hoping that you are interested in participating in this exciting study. If you think that your school may be interested in participating in this study, please contact me by email. My research team will contact you shortly to discuss details of your participation.

Looking forward to your reply!

Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, FADA
Professor of Nutrition/Extension Specialist
Rutgers University

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