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Marsha Spence

Assistant Professor
Department of Nutrition


Doctorate in Human Ecology (Nutrition major), conferred December 2006
Dietetic Internship Program, completed July 2000
Master of Science in Nutrition (Public Health Nutrition Option), conferred May 2000
Master of Public Health (Healthcare Planning and Administration Concentration), conferred May 2000

Research Area:

Community-based overweight/obesity prevention during early and middle childhood.
Development of healthful nutrition and physical activity environments for children and their families using participatory action research methods and leadership education and advocacy development of community stakeholders, including youth;
Participatory action research to improve access to food for children and their families;  
Food, nutrition, and wellness policy development, monitoring, and evaluation

Research Description:

The purpose of the Youth Can! study was to test the effectiveness of using a Positive Youth Development framework to train youth leaders in rural schools to plan, implement, and evaluate interventions to change the school nutrition environment.  The youth partnership model was tested against a standard of care control where youth received classroom nutrition education.  The hypothesis was that children in schools with youth involvement in the planning, implementation, and evaluation would improve their dietary intake more than children in control schools where they received only nutrition education. 

Other projects I have worked on in rural East Tennessee, in conjunction with the Coordinated School Health Program, include a participatory action research project with teachers to develop a plan for improved school nutrition environments, a teacher survey to determine teachers' perceptions of the school nutrition environment and their roles in promoting a healthful nutrition environment, and in-depth interviews with teachers to ascertain their perceptions of the school nutrition environment.  The research data from these studies was used to help shape the Local School District's school wellness policy. 

In addition, as a Registered Dietitian, provided consultation to assist the School Nutrition Director and cafeteria managers in developing healthful and appealing menus that lowered the amount of fat, saturated, and trans fats in school meals. 

Further, the I provided technical support to write a grant to the CDC to help initiate the School Health Index plans at one school.  The grant asked for approximately $5000.00 to purchase a climbing wall and develop an after school "health club."   The school was awarded the money to purchase the equipment and initiate the program.

Dr. Marsha Spence

Contact Information:

Department of Nutrition
1215 W. Cumberland Avenue
229 Jessie Harris Building
Knoxville, TN 37996-1920
Phone: 865-974-6265

Complete Bio