Nutritionist Partners with Office of Health and Wellbeing in Student Educational Events


By Sophia Ghantous / News Reporter || Edited by Victoria Vega

Students at the “Learn How to Eat for Energy, Joy, and Satisfaction” stand in the Lemon Tree Courtyard on Sept. 19. Photo Courtesy of the JCU Office of Health and Wellbeing. 

ROME – JCU’s Office of Health and Wellbeing introduces a partnership with a nutritionist this fall semester as part of the new events to educate and support university students. 

Nutritionist Maria Rosaria Corbo, Nutrition Coach and Master of Science from The University of Massachusetts Amherst, is collaborating with the Office of Health and Wellbeing.  since the summer, after Corbo moved to Italy from the United States. Corbo will host a series of events throughout the current and upcoming semesters, covering various topics such as healthy eating, budgeting, meal planning, and environmentally conscious shopping.  

On Nov. 22, the office organized the workshop and aperitivo, “Ethical Nutrition On A Budget”. This event was hosted by Corbo and succeeded her first event in the Lemon Tree Courtyard on Sept. 19: Learn How to Eat for Energy, Joy, and Satisfaction. 

Flyer advertising workshop: “Ethical Nutrition on a Budget.” Distributed to JCU students on Nov. 21 by the Office of Health and Wellbeing. 

“Now that we are back in motion, we really want to get that interaction with the students,” said Camilla Alessi, Coordinator of JCU Office of Health and Wellbeing and JCU alumna.  

Corbo said she has received a positive response from the JCU students she has spoken to and is enjoying the new opportunity of working with this age range. 

“[Students] are confident enough to come up and talk, and that makes the conversation much more interesting,” said Corbo. 

Corbo and Alessi want students to “have a more positive approach to food” and “not stigmatize certain types of food” as a result of these events. Corbo previously worked with young teenagers in a diabetes and weight management program, and this is her first time working with this specific age group. 

COVID-19 increased discussion revolving around self-care and mental health, which was the basis for this new partnership with Corbo.  

“Quarantine was tough,” says first-year JCU student Charlotte Stefanovich. “It was isolating, overwhelming, and the only friends you had were the ones on your phone screen, and we all know the toxic nature of social media is not your friend.” 

Discussing the effects of COVID-19 on society’s relationship with food, members of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto noted that decreased access to healthcare professionals and increased social media content promoting unhealthy dieting and exercise during quarantine, led to an increase in eating-disorder-related behaviors and stress. 

“It’s hard to change the way you think about food,” said Stefanovich. “Social media labels food as either good or bad. That mentality is what creates an unhealthy relationship with eating.” 

With Tiber Café as the main source of meals for JCU students, the manager, Iva Dragolova, says her job is “giving choices” that allow students to design the meal they see fit. 

“Eating habits are responsive, collective, and repetitive behaviors, which lead all of us to select, consume, and use certain foods or diets, in reaction to personal, social, and cultural influences,” said Dragolova. 

The narrative of eating behaviors is changing and progressing past the “wrong” and “out-of-date” nutrition culture that previously was adopted by former generations, said Dragolova. 

“It is well known that what we eat affects how we feel,” said Dragolova. “Food should make us feel good!” 

The traditionally promoted diet culture tends to promote behaviors characteristic of disordered eating disguised as healthfulness, according to Dr. Allison Chase, regional clinical director of the Eating Recovery Center when speaking to Medical News Today


Corbo put together an informational session named, “Tips for Healthy Eating While Staying on a Budget and Being Environmentally Conscious,” informing students on macronutrients and micronutrients, creating a balanced meal, healthy snack options, and how diets impact the environment. 

“I would feel very happy if you just would keep in mind one of the things I said today or in the past,” said Corbo. 

Santiago Esparza, a first-year student at JCU studying abroad with Northeastern University, attended both the Lemon Tree Courtyard event and the Fall Forum. Following the informational sessions, he said he found it much easier to grocery shop and meal plan and overall felt much more energetic after following some of Corbo’s tips. 

“I brought the grocery recommendations to the supermarket, and I even ended up switching my chocolate cereal out for yogurt and granola,” said Esparza. 

Both stands, “Learn How to Eat for Energy, Joy, and Satisfaction” in the Lemon Tree Courtyard and, the seminar, “Tips for Healthy Eating While Staying on a Budget and Being Environmentally Conscious,” provided guidelines for nutritionally conscious eating choices, including handouts suggesting ways to alter eating behaviors to manage blood sugar levels, improve energy levels, and control your appetite between meals.  

Corbo also shared a grocery list with “dorm-room-friendly” snack options such as cheese and grapes, hummus and vegetables, rice cakes with avocado, and peanut butter and apples.   

Looking further ahead to the Spring, Roman Clarke, Director of The JCU Office of Health and Wellbeing, is working together with Alessi to plan a budgeting seminar and a grocery-store student trip with Corbo, to assist students with meal preparation habits and in navigating the stressful task of grocery shopping. 

This follows student feedback requesting assistance with budgeting and meal planning. 

About 62.7 percent of college students surveyed by faculty from various universities said the main cause for low nutritional awareness is a lack of information.  

The study concluded that nutrition workshops can enhance students’ attitudes, nutritional habits, and eating behaviors, and therefore have a positive effect on them. Increased nutrition education creates a healthier population and a more food-conscious society. 

Being educated on complex topics such as calories and nutritional quality of foods is of “utmost importance,” therefore, education workshops hosted by professors and researchers are necessary to accurately publicize information, according to Nutritional Biologist, Dr. Marco Marchetti

Northeastern University Fall Forums at JCU 

With its study abroad program, Northeastern University enrolled over 200 students at JCU and hosts monthly forums for their students. These meetings are organized by Northeastern staff and facilitated by various members of JCU staff. This is the first year that has conducted these forums. 

“The goal is very simply to draw attention to some of the hardest parts of this experience, which include adaptation, culture shock, time management, independent living, cultivating and managing relationships, expectation setting, health and wellbeing, and emotional support,” says Louise Kennedy, Program Manager of Italy.  

Fall Forum II was the second forum held for Northeastern students at JCU on Nov. 4, which featured Corbo and the Office of Health and Wellness.  

Alessandro Sabelli, JCU Athletic Director, also spoke at the November Fall Forum. He detailed the importance of daily exercise and provided students with a step-by-step “Wake Up Wod,” which is a light exercise cycle he recommended to be completed every morning and a bedtime cycle meant to prepare the body for rest. 

The suggested exercise cycles are designed to increase energy levels and help people achieve a good start and finish to their day, said Sabelli. 

He also gave personalized advice to the attending students, suggesting team sports that aligned with their athletic interests. 

This advice accompanies the nutritional advice given at the same forum, expanding the discussion of self-care and wellness.   

“I will definitely be attending future events,” said Stefanovich. “I think this is information that everyone could benefit from hearing.” 

Contact the Office of Health and Wellness at or visit them in their office in the Gianicolo Residence, located at Vicolo della Penitenza, 26.