UBC Theses and Dissertations
Assessing willingness to try novel and familiar foods in British Columbia school children : impact of Food Explorers, a classroom-based food experience program Murthy, Gayathri
Background: The Food Explorers (FE) program was designed and developed for use with kindergarten and grade 1 children. Offered within the classroom setting, the program aims to encourage children to identify and experience a wide variety of foods. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of the program on children’s willingness to try new and familiar foods. Methods: A quasi- experimental pre-post design was employed to evaluate the impact of the program on children’s familiarity and willingness to try novel and familiar test foods. Children in the FE group participated in food -related classroom activities led by teachers, over 5 months and the control group were taught the standard curriculum. Assessments of familiarity and willingness to try foods was completed at baseline and after 5 months in both groups. Parent-perceived food neophobia was also assessed using a validated scale at both times. Open-ended questions were used to assess parent and teacher experience with the program. Results: Analyses were conducted with 194 children (FE group, n=102 and control group, n=92). Knowledge of familiar foods increased over time in both groups and a significant group by time interaction was observed with 2 test foods (out of 10) at follow-up, indicating increased knowledge in the FE group, compared to the control group. Willingness to try the test foods, measured as food preference scores significantly increased for five novel foods in the FE group compared to the control group. No significant difference was observed in parent-perceived food neophobia scores between groups. Parents indicated positive experiences with respect to their children’s willingness to try new foods at home. Positive experiences were also noted by the teachers. Conclusion: While there is some evidence to suggest that the FE program may positively impact food knowledge and willingness to try new foods in kindergarten and grade 1 children, limitations of the study and implementation of the FE program warrant consideration when considering the impact of the program. The findings of the study provide valuable information on barriers for implementation of the FE program in classrooms and will inform future evaluations of the program.
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