Content Area: Algebra
Contacts: Britton Riehm and Simon Frumkin

During spring 2009, the Evening Program at Centennial Learning Center (CLC) in Gresham, Oregon has developed a relationship with Snowcap, a local food bank that provides food packages to homeless and low-income community residents. The main task of the student volunteers was to assemble food packages to distribute to the community. In an effort to ensure that the packages being assembled were the most nutritious, satiating, and economical, we asked ourselves the following essential question:
“Can we analyze food based on nutritional content, satiety, and cost to create a rating system for food that indicates a food’s nutritional value and cost effectiveness?”
As we set out to attempt to answer this question, we came across www.nutritiondata.com. This website has an extensive database of foods and their associated Fullness Factors and Nutrition Data Ratings. These terms are explained below:

  • The Fullness Factor™ (FF) rates foods on a 0 to 5 scale that predicts the satiating effect of the food. Higher FF numbers indicate that a food is more filling or satisfying per calorie. Lower FF numbers suggest that a food will supply a lot of calories before you feel full. Therefore, foods with high FF numbers may support weight loss and foods with low FF numbers may support weight gain.
  • The ND (Nutrition Data) Rating scores foods on a 0 to 5 scale based on the FDA recommendations for a healthy diet. A higher ND Rating indicates that a food is more nutritious. The proprietary formula used to derive the ND Rating takes into account the nutrient density of the food (how many nutrients per calorie), how many different essential nutrients are present, the relative importance of the nutrients present, and the amount of nutrients that are frequently over-consumed, such as sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat.

In order to answer our essential question our students analyzed the above factors along with the cost of certain foods to come up with a rating that takes all of these things into account. Specifically, our students found the ND rating and Fullness Factor, used factor analysis to find the price per calorie for each food, and created ratios for the nutrition and satiety of each food that was analyzed. This work is described in greater detail in the attached lesson plans (1, 2, 3) and student work samples (1, 2).
Our goal for the 2009-2010 school year is to share our results with Snowcap so that we can determine the best way to share our findings with Snowcap’s customers. The significance of this is twofold. We hope to teach people in our community about the importance of nutrition. Also, we want people to consider the financial costs of associated with maintaining a healthy diet.
The way we would like to present our findings is through a simple 1-10 scale. After we complete the nutrition, fullness, and cost analyses we will distill the data into a score of 1-10 for each food with regards to nutrition and fullness factor while considering the cost of each food. In this system, a food that has a nutrition score of ten would provide the consumer with the most nutrients for the lowest cost. A food that has a fullness score of 10 would leave the consumer with a greatest degree of satiety for the lowest cost. Scores of 1 for nutrition and fullness would be at the opposite end of the spectrum.
We hope that this rating system will serve as a guide to the employees of Snowcap to help facilitate the equitable distribution of food on a nutritional basis. Also, it will help educate consumers as they consider the choices they make when eating.
This project will help our students see the importance of nutrition and the choices they make when purchasing food. It will also demonstrate the important role that mathematics can play when analyzing a community issue and how it can help our community members.

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