Research by Cate School senior Sohee Lee has earned her semifinalist status in the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the College Board. Lee’s research — “Nutrition Awareness in Today’s Adolescents: Do 21st Century Boarding Schools Have the Answer?” — also garnered her a $1,000 scholarship.

The YES Competition for original student research is designed to inspire talented high school juniors and seniors to investigate behavioral, biological, environmental and social factors that affect health and to identify ways to improve public health. Up to 120 college scholarships are awarded each year to students who conduct outstanding research projects that apply epidemiological methods of analysis to a health-related issue.

Lee, a native of South Korea, investigated boarding school dining services and their nutritional awareness efforts to determine if the schools could serve as models for national dining programs. In addition to renovating a dining service program, three surveys were designed to assess the idea in the form of a boarding school dining services questionnaire, an information session feedback form, and an all-school community survey.

The results indicated the main goal of boarding school dining services is to offer nutritious meals to the community. The schools were on a meal rotation; followed many health trends; offered a variety of healthy options, including to those with special dietary needs; and half the dining services felt restricted by their budgets.

Response to a dietician was found to be very positive. There was a moderately strong positive linear association (r=0.56) between healthy options and variety of food and a similar association (r=0.57) between healthy options and finding something an individual wanted to eat in the boarding school community. The average overall satisfaction was a high 4.608 out of a maximum of 6, and the mean ratings increased with grade.

The results led to the conclusion that boarding schools provide the appropriate environment for raising nutrition awareness among adolescents and could potentially be a model for day schools to emulate.

Don Orth is Cate School‘s communications director.