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About The Diet Assessment Center

The Diet Assessment Center (DAC) is dedicated to collecting and analyzing high-quality dietary data in order to help researchers clearly understand what, how, and when people are eating.

Since its founding in 1990, the DAC has conducted over 75,000 twenty-four-hour dietary recalls. Researchers at the DAC collect dietary data using computer-assisted telephone systems such as the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR), a software program developed by the Nutrition Coordinating Center at the University of Minnesota which contains a programming interface to collect 24-hour dietary recalls.

In addition, the DAC has provided research support for studies involving the collection and analysis of food records, the development, validation and collection of food frequency questionnaires and the collection of a variety of other types of telephone or self administered questionnaires including physical activity, functional status and health history.

The DAC consists of over 1200 sq ft. of space with a telephone interview facility and staff, faculty and graduate student office space. The large interview facility is sufficient for large-scale dietary data collection with the capacity to conduct 300-500 dietary interviews per month.

By working with students, the DAC can perform rigorous and, high quality, dietary data collection at a cost savings.

Meg Bruening

Collaborate with the DAC

Researchers from Penn State, other universities, non-profit institutions, private foundations, and the food industry who are interested in collaborating should contact Meg Bruening at

We collaborate with other researchers mainly through grants, contracts, or subcontracts, where government or other entities serve as the prime sponsor. Collaborations for special circumstances or on a limited basis through fee-for-service are also possible.

For more information about collaborating with the DAC, please visit our Collaborative Research Services page.

Our Research Expertise

Research has been conducted on dietary intake methodology including studies examining the accuracy and underreporting of dietary intake, errors in estimation, food group methodology, comparison of food pattern analysis methods, and methods for calculating energy density and diet quality indices.

The DAC has also been involved in the development of new diet assessment instruments such as a diet quality screener and the modification and validation of existing questionnaires and instruments.

For a list of publications related to the DAC, please visit Diet Assessment Center Director Diane Mitchell's Google Scholar profile

Student Experience and Training

Undergraduate students in their junior and senior years gain valuable job experience for dietetic internships or as part of a summer field experience. We provide extensive training in diet assessment and research methods to develop the students’ communication skills while enhancing their knowledge base. The students then collect data on real research projects.

The research and communication skills that students acquire prepare them for dietetic internships and graduate programs in nutrition and other health-related fields.