Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Jennifer D. Irwin


The overall purpose of this dissertation was to examine the planning, implementation, and formative evaluation of a community-based food literacy program for youth. Article 1 provided a summary of the community-based cooking program for at-risk youth. Objectives included the provision of applied food literacy and cooking skills education augmented with fieldtrips to local farms. Eight at-risk youth (five girls and three boys, mean age = 14.6) completed the intervention. Post intervention, five of eight participants completed in-depth interviews about their experiences.

Article 2 was a formative evaluation of the cooking program focused on gaining an understanding of participants’ (i.e., at-risk youth, community partners, and parents/guardians) experiences (n=25). While Article 2 did not lend itself to a quantitative analysis, it was important to understand the program’s impact on participants’ food literacy and self-efficacy. A simple, self-reported tool (pre-post) to assess food literacy and self-efficacy among at-risk youth participants was implemented. Findings identified that the intervention provided a unique, hands-on learning opportunity for participants to gain essential food literacy and cooking skills which enhanced their self-reported confidence and self-efficacy. Recommendations included expanding this program and offering it in a centrally located location.

The purpose of Article 3 was to qualitatively assess, through Photovoice methodology, the barriers and facilitators at-risk youth participants experienced to applying cooking skills in environments external to the intervention. Four major themes emerged as facilitators: aptitude; food literacy; local and fresh; and connectedness. Youth identified access to unhealthy foods as the only barrier. Findings indicated that a community-based cooking program for at-risk youth provided an opportunity to apply basic cooking techniques to ensure healthy, economical, home-made meals for youth while building confidence and self-efficacy.

The intervention was a unique initiative that might provide a useful template to enhance existing food literacy programs or create similarly structured programs for relevant vulnerable populations. There is need for applied food literacy programming and research to reverse the erosion of cooking skills in Canadian society. An evaluated intervention can assist in providing evidence in support of the provision of food literacy for diverse participants.