Perceptions of Low-Income Students Completing a Nutrition Education Program

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Objective: To capture students’ perceptions of participating in a nutrition education program. Design: Focus groups (n = 16). Setting: Low-income schools in Rhode Island. Participants: A total of 64 low-income, ethnically and racially diverse third-grade students, 93.5% of whom were eligible for free or reduced-price meals, 62% of whom were Hispanic, and 16% of whom were black. Main Outcome Measure(s): Perceptions about the program's impact on food and beverage consumption, the value of the program, potential changes for improvement, and barriers to change. Analysis: Focus groups were recorded, transcribed, and coded using a hybrid approach of inductive and deductive thematic analysis. Interrater agreement was calculated. Results: Students perceived that the program positively influenced their attitudes toward making healthy choices and what they and their families were eating. Students reported increased empowerment, bravery to try new foods, and knowledge. Students enjoyed the program but suggested increasing the duration and frequency of lessons and including peer-to-peer education. Students felt that the tastiness of unhealthy food was a barrier to choosing healthier food. Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that the program may have improved students’ knowledge, empowerment, and bravery, and that this had a positive influence on healthy food consumption for students and their families. Input from students will help inform future modifications to the curriculum.

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Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior