National Peanut Board and STEM Advocate Taylor Richardson Go Peanut Butter & Beyond

Taylor Richardson from NASA greeting students in a virtual class.Sep 1, 2023

ATLANTA - James F. Doughty School in Bangor, Maine is the grand prize winner of the National Peanut Board’s Peanut Butter & Beyond Contest. The winning entry was submitted by JFDS science educator Tracy Vassiliev and school nutrition services director Noelle Scott and focused on using peanut shells as a biodegradable alternative to plastic packaging.

As the winner of the nationwide contest, eighth graders at JFDS had a live virtual visit on November 15 from Taylor Richardson (aka @astronautstarbright), a college freshman at Spelman, aspiring astronaut and advocate for girls and people of color in STEM.

During her live visit, Richardson said, “I want to give my friends at the National Peanut Board a big round of applause for coming up with this amazing contest and ensuring students like you and me know the importance of STEM and of course know how peanuts play a pivotal role, [just] like George Washington Carver [did] being a black scientist known as the father of peanuts.”

NPB’s Peanut Butter & Beyond campaign encouraged collaboration between what students eat and what they learn at school, connecting peanuts and peanut butter to STEM topics. The JFDS classes also won up to $5,000 for STEM projects, a peanut butter donation to a local food bank, and Jif peanut butter snacks.

“The entry from James F. Doughty School used a familiar and humble food like peanuts to help students understand and experiment with a complex science concept,” said NPB Director of Communications Lauren Highfill Williams. “Peanuts are a naturally sustainable food so considering them as a sustainable packaging source is a perfect match.”

“The Peanut Butter & Beyond Challenge allowed me to apply ideas that I have been working on this past summer as a National Science Foundation RET (research experience for teachers) at the University of Maine's Forest Bioproducts Research Institute,” said Vassiliev. “The National Peanut Board put together a truly remarkable prize that not only celebrates our students, but also benefits our community. The experiences and opportunities provided will have profound impacts on our students, science teachers and our community for years to come.”

Following best practices for food allergy management in schools was also a factor in the winning entry. “It was exciting to see that JFDS serves peanut items in their school and has a plan for managing food allergens,” said Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RD, LD, NPB consultant. “A comprehensive food allergy management plan helps keep students with peanut and other food allergies safe while providing nutritious, delicious and affordable foods like peanuts and peanut butter on the menu.”

The runner-up winners of the Peanut Butter & Beyond contest are Jay Bambarger, school nutrition manager, and Melissa Barth, STEM teacher, of Harbins Elementary in Dacula, Georgia. They will receive $2,000 towards a STEM or healthy eating project for their school.

About National Peanut Board

The National Peanut Board works to improve the economic condition of America’s peanut farmers and their families through compelling promotion and groundbreaking research. The Board is committed to finding food allergy solutions and has invested more than $33 million in food allergy outreach, education and research. Visit and for more information.

About Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD

Sherry Coleman Collins is a registered dietitian nutritionist and was formerly the area supervisor for food and nutrition services for the second-largest school district in Georgia. Her areas of practice include nutrition communications, food allergies, digestive wellness, and culinary nutrition. As a communicator, Sherry is a sought after speaker and has presented at professional and consumer conferences across the country. Sherry has published dozens of articles in a variety of print and online publications and serves as an expert to the media. With a particular interest and expertise in food allergies & digestive health, her professional accomplishments include developing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Certificate of Training in Food Allergies and authoring the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Practice Paper, The Role of the RDN in Food Allergy Diagnosis and Management. Sherry serves as a consultant for National Peanut Board.

About Taylor Richardson

Freshman at Spelman College Taylor Richardson, 18, is an advocate, activist, philanthropist and speaker. She wants to be a physician, scientist and astronaut. Taylor’s service and advocacy work have an incredible trajectory that began when she was nine and attended Space Camp. Taylor has raised over $250,000 to help girls interested in STEM and has been on the covers of two Scholastic Science magazines and was 2017 Girl of the Year for Women in Aviation.

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