Effects of a College Course About Food and Society on Students' Eating Behaviors

Eric B. Hekler, Christopher D. Gardner, Thomas N. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Health education programs for promoting a healthful diet have shown limited success in clinical trials. Purpose: This paper aims to examine whether an innovative educational course focused on societal-level issues related to food and food production (Food and Society) would promote healthful eating among college students. Methods: A quasi-experimental non-RCT was conducted to compare changes in eating behaviors among students taking the Food and Society course (n=28) versus students taking health-related human biology courses about obesity, health psychology, and community health assessment (n=72). All participants were undergraduates. A Food Frequency Questionnaire was administered at the beginning and end of the four courses taught from January through March 2009. Students in the Food and Society course read selected portions of popular books and essays (e.g., Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma) and watched documentaries (e.g., Aaron Woolf's King Corn) highlighting environmental, ethical, social justice, cultural, political, and agricultural issues related to food and food production, and discussed these major themes during class sessions. In addition, students were required to (1) write an Op-Ed article and (2) create a brief YouTube video focused on themes discussed in the course. Results: The students who took the Food and Society course reported significantly improving their healthful eating (F[2, 97]=5.72, p=0.02), with greatest improvements in increased vegetable (F[2, 97]=10.96, p=0.001) and decreased high-fat dairy (F[2, 97]=5.39, p=0.02) intakes relative to the comparison group. Conclusions: The results suggest that it may be possible to change dietary behaviors in college students by focusing on social, ethical, cultural, and environmental issues related to food and food production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-547
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology

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