Jennifer K. Richards is a research assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Her research program is truly unique in that is combines food safety and education. She developed and directs Hands On: Real World Lessons for Middle School Classrooms, a science-based educational outreach program designed to teach middle school students key food safety concepts via teacher-led instruction while meeting state mandated curriculum standards for math, science, language arts, and social studies. Through the Hands On program, Richards conducts food safety and educational research on psychological constructs of behavior change, teacher professional development and train-the-trainer models, fidelity of implementation, and effective instructional strategies.
Currently in its 6th year, Hands On has served over 19,000 students in 132 schools across 11 states and has provided high-quality professional development to 449 middle school teachers. The program has received funding from four USDA grants ($2.4m) and from the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Science and Education Foundation. This past fall, Richards was awarded a USDA National Integrated Food Safety Initiative award to further explore the impact of fidelity of implementation on science education outreach programs’ curriculum development and train-the-trainer models.