Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Oceanography

Department

Oceanography

First Advisor

Geoffrey Greene

Abstract

Background: Families who have more frequent family meals make more healthy food selections and their children are less likely to be obese than families who eat together less frequently. A nutrition education curriculum that results in increased family meal frequency could be an effective approach to reducing obesity in children through improved nutrition eating behaviors.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a SNAP-Ed 4-week family meal focused nutrition education pilot curriculum to improve family meal frequency among low-income parents in Rhode Island.

Design: This study used a prospective, quasi-experimental design. Low-income parents at one site participated in a SNAP-Ed sponsored 4-week family meal focused nutrition education pilot curriculum intended to improve family meal frequency and quality. Low-income parents at another site participated in a SNAP-Ed sponsored 4- week traditional nutrition education curriculum.

Participants/Setting: Parents with an elementary aged child in grades K through 3 (N=35) at Rhode Island Children Opportunity Zones (COZ’s) were recruited and provided a family meal focused curriculum (n-17) or a standard nutrition education curriculum (n=18). Participants were required to be the primary meal preparing caregiver and were required to provide survey data for 1 qualifying child. Participants were mostly female (97%), mostly white (54%), all low-income, with most receiving SNAP benefits (67%).

Main outcome measures: Frequency and quality of family meals and dietary intakes of the children were reported pre- and post-intervention in surveys conducted at the start of week 1 and end of week 4 lessons.

Statistical Analyses Performed: The primary analysis used a repeated measures ANOVA which assessed the time by group interaction for the primary outcome of family meal frequency, the secondary outcome of environmental quality of the meal, and the tertiary outcomes of child diet quality intake. Sugar-sweetened beverage intake was assessed using a chi-squared test. Self efficacy for increasing family meal frequency was measured at post-survey and was compared using an independent t-test.

Results: There was no significant increase in family meal frequency within or between groups and no between group difference in meal quality of dietary variables. Significant improvements in mealtime environment quality were observed within groups. Participants in the control group reported a significant increase in their enjoyment of family meals following the intervention. Both experimental and control subjects reported significant reductions in television viewing during meals and a significant increase in pre-mealtime planning within groups. Participants in the experimental group reported a significant increase in ounces of whole grains and cups of fruit consumed per day with no between group differences.

Conclusion: On average, most families met the target number of family meals (>6 meals per week), and there was no increase infrequency. There is a need for further research in this area, particularly with more strategies targeting the appropriate barriers to families eating together more frequently.

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