Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Supervisor

Seabrook, Jamie

2nd Supervisor

Stranges, Saverio

Co-Supervisor

3rd Supervisor

Gilliland, Jason

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

Food literacy is a set of skills and knowledge that are integral to diet. It is common among teenagers to not have basic food literacy skills needed to consume a healthy diet. This exploratory study examined: (1) the current state of food and nutrition knowledge among adolescents in grades 9-12 in the London-Middlesex region of Ontario; and (2) predictors of food knowledge among adolescents. Data for this study were drawn from baseline youth and parent survey data collected for the SmartAPPetite project, a smartphone application-based intervention study which aims to improve food and nutrition knowledge and dietary habits of adolescents. Statistical analysis of the survey data indicates that higher household education and higher median neighbourhood family income, the use of mobile health applications, liking to cook, as well as confidence in reading and understanding food labels were all consistently associated with increased food and nutrition knowledge. Results of this thesis may help guide policymakers, researchers, and public health professionals in developing appropriate food and nutrition programs and curriculums to combat the decline in food literacy skills.

Summary for Lay Audience

Diet quality tends to decrease in adolescence and remains suboptimal into adulthood. This is concerning because one’s diet early in life sets the foundation for their eating habits for the rest of their life. Poor eating habits, as well as diminished nutrition knowledge and food preparation skills are associated with an increase in nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. One factor that may influence dietary behaviour is a concept called food literacy. Food literacy can be described a set of skills that help individuals plan and prepare nutritious, tasty, and affordable meals with confidence. Food literacy involves having food and nutrition knowledge to understand where one’s food comes from, what is in it, as well as how the nutrients within food affects one’s health. It is increasingly important to understand what contributes to food and nutrition knowledge among adolescents because adolescents today may lack the basic understanding and skills necessary to develop health food habits. This thesis utilized baseline data from SmartAPPetite, a five-year long population intervention, to examine food and nutrition knowledge among adolescents from the London-Middlesex area, and the individual, behavioural, and socio-economic factors related to food and nutrition knowledge. The results of this thesis found that knowledge scores were quite low, with an average total knowledge score of 54.6%, and average sub-scores of 59.8% for food knowledge and 52.2% for nutrition knowledge. These low knowledge scores are in line with previous research. An adolescent’s age, ethnicity, mental health, as well as using a mobile health application, liking to cook, and confidence in reading and understanding food labels were all significantly correlated with food and nutrition knowledge across the models. Likewise, higher median neighbourhood family income and household education were consistently correlated with greater food and nutrition knowledge among adolescents. This thesis fills a gap in the Canadian literature as it has allowed for a better understanding of the food and nutrition knowledge among adolescents. Findings from this thesis may help guide policymakers, researchers, and public health professionals in developing appropriate food and nutrition programs and curriculums to combat the decline in food literacy skills.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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