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USDA food assistance programs reach an estimated 27.2 million Americans monthly. These programs have an explicit nutrition education mandate to help consumers develop skills related to selecting, purchasing and preparing a low-cost nutritious diet for themselves and their families. There is an emerging consensus in the nutrition education field that better and more effective materials and approaches are needed to train nutrition education paraprofessionals.


Nutrition Mentor™ is an interactive CD-ROM designed by nutrition education experts for training para-professionals. This training tool combines audio narration, music, graphics, animation and digital video to engage users in an active learning process that increases interest in the information presented and fosters learning across the wide range of learning abilities of nutrition education paraprofessionals. It individually mentors learners on the Dietary Guidelines, who progress through 12 nutrition education lessons at their own pace. Each nutrition lesson feature an interactive mastery test that allows the learner to go back to the lesson and learn items answered incorrectly, thus optimizing learning. The curriculum also features two resource lessons to help learners effectively apply their nutrition knowledge when teaching clients: an adult learning strategies lesson with practical ideas on how to deliver nutrition instruction to adults, and a cultural competence lesson that orients learners to key considerations when teaching nutrition to teach Latinos and Vietnamese clients.

View A Sample Lesson (Flash application in a new window) >>    View Ordering Information >>  

Explore the Nutrition Mentor™ Curriculum

Nutrition Mentor Evaluation

An evaluation of Nutrition Mentor™ was conducted by an independent nutrition researcher to assess its efficacy as a training tool.  The evaluation designed employed a pre/post test design and compared new, untrained paraprofessionals to experienced paraprofessionals with two or more years of experience in the field.


The evaluation results demonstrate the training CD-ROM is effective at improving the level of nutrition knowledge of new nutrition education paraprofessionals.  At baseline, persons with less than two years experience had lower levels of nutrition knowledge than persons with more experience in the field (p=0.05).  Nutrition knowledge scores at baseline were significantly correlated to length of time employed in nutrition education (p=0.03).  After completion of the Nutrition Mentor™ training, there were no significant differences in knowledge scores between the nutrition educators with less than two years experience in the field and those in the comparison groups, which had an average of 10.4 years experience.   Participants took approximately 50 minutes to complete a lesson as an individualized, self-paced learning experience, which translates into 12.5 hours to complete the 14-lesson course over a two to three month period working at their own pace.   Notably, new nutrition education paraprofessionals reached comparable levels of nutrition knowledge as those with much more experience in the field in significantly less time compared to current training methods. Use of the interactive CD-ROM as the training tool accelerated the learning curve sharply; the training period to reach a level of competence in nutrition knowledge was reduced to less than 20 training hours over a period of several months. 


A parallel evaluation activity obtained subjective indicators of the learning experience from study participants that used the interactive training CD-ROM. Participants found the learning experience enjoyable; they found the lessons engaging and liked the lesson variety, structure and progression of the lessons.  Importantly, they found the materials easy to understand and report they learned a lot about the subjects taught, and enjoyed the overall learning experience. On a 10-point Likert scale, the aggregate ratings for the overall learning experience ranged from 8.25 to 9.38, depending on the lesson. Respondent ratings of how much they learned about the subject ranged from 8.13 to 9.38; ratings of their enjoyment of the learning experience ranged from 8.13 to 9.13.  Respondents rated the ease with which they became engaged in the lesson from 8.0 to 9.13, and the ratings for the ease with which they could understand key concepts and information in the lessons ranged from 8.13 to 9.5.  Respondent ratings for the structure and progression of the lessons ranged from 8.13 to 9.13, and the variety and different modes in which instruction was presented from 8.13 to 9.25,



Nutrition Mentor Development Team

Nutrition Mentor™ was developed over a period of three years with the guidance of nutrition subject-matter experts, a curriculum developer, and a creative team of graphic designers and multimedia programmers.  View photo of the development team in a new window



Project Management

Armando Valdez, PhD, Principal Investigator/Executive Producer

Cathy Wu, BS, Project Associate


Subject-Matter Experts

Elizabeth Gong, MPH, MS, RD, Cooperative Extension, UC Davis

Rita Mitchell, RD., Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, UC Berkeley



Lucia Kaiser, PhD, RD, Cooperative Extension, UC Davis


Instructional Design, Scriptwriter

Monica A. Valdez


Interactive Design

Damon Seeley

Gareth Smith


Multimedia Developers

Dave Meyerson

Dave Mickelson


Graphic Design

Alan Smith


Digital Photography

Laura Copenhaver

Ed Costin



Billy Blob


Video Production

Shirley Davalos

Dave Corona


Video Editor

Samantha Calimari


Voice-over Actor

Catherine Enos


Recording Engineer

Andy Deguara


Production Assistant

Sonia Elizabeth Valdez