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Assistant professor makes impact through nutrition studies

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Lesli Biediger headshot
Lesli Biediger, a nutrition professor at Texas State University, has been the head dietitian for the state of Texas and helped create the WIC app.

Photo courtesy of Lesli Biediger

On assistant professor is making an impact on her communities, from the Women’s Infants and Children program, to Bobcat Bounty, to teaching students in nutrition.

Lesli Biediger-Friedman, assistant professor of nutrition and foods, graduated high school in Seguin and attended Texas Tech University to become a registered dietician. Afterward, she attended Benedictine University in Illinois to receive her Master’s in public health.

After earning her master’s degree, Biediger-Friedman conducted research for the state health department for five years. During her time at the department, she was the state nutrition coordinator for obesity. Biediger-Friedman soon realized she wanted to continue her education in nutrition and policy and returned to Texas Tech University to earn her PhD.

Biediger-Friedman found her love for public health and community nutrition as an undergraduate student and enjoyed being able to advocate for those who needed better education on nutrition. Biediger-Friedman became a professor because she can research and learn more about new ways to better her communities.

While teaching at Texas State, she noticed how her interests in nutrition and the public health system lined up with the efforts of the Women, Infants, and Children program. WIC provides nutrition counseling to low-income women and children who are at nutritional risk.

While Biediger-Friedman worked with the organization, WIC was in the process of creating an app that would help families learn about health and nutrition.

“We did research throughout South Texas with women participating in the WIC program and tried to see what apps they currently use, and if they would like an app about nutrition education,” Biediger-Friedman said.

Bobcat Bounty, the campus food pantry, opened its doors Feb. 1 because of the the efforts of Biediger-Friendman and Hannah Thornton, senior lecturer and dietetic internship director.

Biediger-Friedman said she and Thornton ran a study to see how many students on campus meet the definition of being food insecure. Of the 1,300 students sampled, they found 40 percent of Texas State students are food insecure.

Bobcat Bounty is open every Thursday from 5-7 p.m. in FCS 187. The food pantry is run by dietetic student interns and also welcomes student volunteers.

“It has been an amazing experience because we have been able to really involve students at every single phase of envisioning this,” Biediger-Friedman said. “Students have really led the charge and as faculty and as the research coordinator behind it, I am able to teach concepts that we’re then able to immediately practice in participatory experience working with and provide a service to our university and community.”

Biediger-Friedman teaches her students how to apply policies in real world situations. Her classes have out of class assignments that require students to go into the community and advocate for better nutrition education systems or better food options.

Colton Scott, nutrition and foods senior, took a course on ethics and policy in nutrition with Biediger-Friedman and said the class taught him practical ways to get involved in community advocacy.

“I really liked getting familiar with policies, finding ways to maneuver through policies when trying to make change within your community,” Scott said. “It has always been about the science of nutrition and working with patients, but it’s kinda cool to take a step back and look at how things are implemented throughout the whole community.”

Henley Meadows, nutrition and foods senior, has also taken Biediger-Friedman’s course in ethics and policy in nutrition.

“One thing that I took away from her class is to always be fully aware how ethically correct you need to be in your research or situations when working with research participants,” Meadows said.

Biediger-Friedman’s efforts to bring nutrition education and advocacy throughout the state and at Texas State make her a welcoming force for change.

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