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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unpacking your lunch : a qualitative study of young students' ideas about food and nutrition Urueta-Ortiz, Tathali


This research seeks to understand young students’ ideas about food and nutrition through an environmental education program, the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm Project (ILLP). As a research assistant with this project, I conducted an exploratory study through qualitative lenses by conducting focus groups interviews with 9-10 year old students from a Vancouver elementary school. The interviews were with a class that participated in the ILLP during the school year 2006-2007 and with another class in the same school that did not participate in ILLP. I wondered what the students understand about nutrition and if the students’ experience growing food impacted their understanding about food and nutrition. Environmental and nutrition education are interconnected and share a common responsibility that is crucial for both the environment and the individual. There is no environmental health without individual health, and vice versa; however, this connection has been poorly explored. Nutrition education traditionally has been closer to the prescriptive approach. Research conducted in nutrition education has been related predominately with children’s dietary intake of fruits and vegetables; this type of research has been conducted without including children’s voices. There is a lack of qualitative research exploring children’s understandings about food and nutrition within the context of informal settings. The increase in school gardening projects makes research conducted and reported in this area imperative. My findings suggest that students in both classes (ILLP and non ILLP) held similar views about healthy food. Furthermore, the students from this study share similar ideas about nutrition and food than the ones reported in the literature. Also, my findings suggest that it is important to engage students in more participatory conversations and activities about food and nutrition at the ILLP. Experience alone is not enough to impact their understandings, since children are exposed to a very well-designed marketing industry. The study does provide evidence that the ILLP is meaningful experience that students associate with learning. Through a holistic project like the ILLP that bridges environmental education and nutrition education, I think a different approach to nutrition education is possible.

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