College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate develops passion for nutrition after accident
It was during her time in the hospital following a near-fatal car accident in 2006 that University of Idaho graduate student Lauren Keeney developed a passion for nutrition.
“Nutrition is one of the first things they address to help you recover faster,” Keeney said. “But, after the initial period of being in the hospital, I didn’t get to talk to a nutritionist. I had to figure things out for myself.”
As she relearned how to walk and read, Keeney also found herself discovering which foods maximized her energy and which foods had a negative effect on her body. Though at first she indulged her cravings for clam chowder and root beer, Keeney began cutting out processed foods and instead relied on whole grains, fruits and vegetables to propel her through each day.
Keeney, who took a break from study at UI for about a year after her accident, returned to school to pursue a degree in nutrition, with minors in anthropology and international studies. With the help of her professors, Keeney said she was able to overcome the initial anxiety she experienced returning to school. They encouraged her to look to take her research global.
Keeney received her undergraduate degree from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) in 2013, and the Moscow native will graduate in May with a master’s in family and consumer sciences.
Samantha Ramsay, an assistant professor in CALS’ Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, gave Keeney the opportunity to act as lead research assistant in Ghana, Africa, with the International Child Feeding project. In Ghana, Keeney helped mothers fill out questionnaires regarding feeding practices with their children, recorded anthropometric measures of each mother and developed protocols that enabled Keeney and her team to examine the factors that influence international child feeding practices.
Keeney also represented the Philippines at the Model UN in New York City in 2013. Her position paper on trade and development focused on concrete measures to promote south-south cooperation for development, harnessing resource extraction for further development gains, food security and agriculture and trade. She also had the opportunity to work as a researcher in Taiwan, where she presented information as a member of the food and nutrition club.
Keeney says her travels have helped her learn “how culture, traditions, belief systems and economic circumstances affect nutritional decisions of a family.”
“We are all one,” she said. “No matter where you are, what money you have, we all need the same kind of food. I have personal experience with how much nutrition impacts and changes your life, so having that knowledge makes sharing it feel like a responsibility.”
In addition to her global work, Keeney worked as a dietetics outreach and Extension programs assistant under former campus dietitian Verna Bergman; developed recipes promoting Idaho’s agriculture and UI’s Smokin’ Joe Gouda; won the 2015 Coordinated Program in Dietetics Recipe Development Award; and served as a Borah Symposium committee member.
She also tutors several local children and works as a yoga instructor at Nourish in downtown Moscow.
“She’s a super woman,” said Bill L. Smith, director of the Martin Institute and chair of the International Studies Program.
Keeney plans on sitting for the Registered Dietitian Exam. After completing her supervised practice hours, she plans to either start applying for jobs or continue her education and work toward a doctorate, possibly at UI.
“I would be surprised if I didn’t come back,” Keeney said.
Article by Miranda Carter, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences