Montana State University

Peru was an eye-opener for MSU dietetics student

July 27, 2004 -- By Carol Flaherty

Anna Muldown, upper right, with a fellow student and family that they interviewed as part of a nutrition project in a small village called Vicos outside of Huaraz and up in the Andes mountains.   High-Res Available

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Summer school had a different flavor this year for Montana State University nutrition student Anna Muldown.

The Whitefish native just got back from a five-week nutrition-abroad program in Peru, where she says the focus of nutrition education is the opposite of that in the United States.

"Here in the U.S. we have access to a variety of foods where as down there, it is limited. Our major problem here is an over-abundance of food. There, people have a lot less and are struggling to feed themselves. The major problems I saw came from malnutrition," says Muldown. She compared how over-eating here has led to the need for education on preventing obesity, whereas lack of food for the poor in Peru has led to a need for education about vitamins and especially iron-rich foods.

Muldown was one of 20 students from around the country to participate in the summer nutrition internship through Iowa State University. Her experiences included observing a clinical nutrition education program and a community research program.

She said that, even though she doesn't speak Spanish, there was a lot she learned. Home visits in the poorer sections of both Lima and rural areas were both difficult to understand and a wealth of information.

"Just taking it all in was amazing. It isn't anything I would ever see in the U.S. even in the poorest areas," she said. A community kitchen might simply offer porridge bubbling in an iron pot over sticks of wood and under a simple canopy. She also was exposed to the hospital nutrition settings, including both the largest hospital in the country and a smaller rural hospital nutrition program.

In the hospital, she said she "learned a lot about tube feeding for severely ill patients and malnourished patients, and we also did a lot of home visits, interviewing families about breast feeding practices.

The experience has made her reconsider what she wants to do after she graduates from MSU in the spring of 2005.

"I was interested in sports nutrition. I still intend to pursue a master's in sports nutrition, but hopefully later in my career I'll be able to participate in an international nutrition project again," she says. Muldown says she plans to go looking for international opportunities after earning her master's and after studying a foreign language.

"I'm pretty open to anything after this, but I would like to finish school before I get in touch with other programs out there," she added.

Anna Muldown, Christina Campbell (406) 994-5002