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UBC Undergraduate Research

Building Food Skills and Knowledge through Campus Workshops Lee, Sherman; Zeng, Ingrid; Tung, Lynn; Hobbis, Odette


Food literacy can be defined as an individual's ability to source, prepare, and consume healthy, safe, and nutritious food (Cullerton et al. 2015; Vidgen et al. 2014). Food literacy is an aggregated definition that encompasses components of food security, food skills and nutritional knowledge and is altered and mediated by environmental, social and cultural factors (Cullerton et al. 2015; Vidgen at al. 2014). Food insecurity is common on post-secondary campuses (Silverthorn, 2016). The statistic of Meal Exchange shows that 39% of students surveyed at 5 Canadian universities experience food insecurity while in school (Silverthorn, 2016). Common concerns are related to quality, nutrition content, and budgeting for food and are said to be affecting the mental and physical health of the participants. The USDA defines food insecurity as inadequate food access due to income or other social conditions (Public Health Report, 2016). Under current trends of neoliberalization in higher education institutes, as well as the increase in student debt in the past decade (Goodnight et al., 2014), university students are likely to fall under this category due to both economic stress and food skill limitations. Our project purpose was focused on understanding how to build students’ food skills and knowledge through campus workshops and to address the issues surrounding food literacy on UBC campus. Our objectives included building an inventory of workshops available to students on campus (via this report, or an online calendar), conducting a community survey to baseline food literacy at UBC, conducting a stakeholder survey to baseline workshop operational limitations/assets, identifying and addressing any overlaps and gaps between stakeholder workshops, and providing our stakeholders with recommendations to enhance campus food literacy. We conducted two surveys to gain better understanding of the workshops available at UBC. The first survey was a stakeholder survey where we compiled a list of stakeholders that are currently running workshops and surveyed them through email. Returning surveys suggested that the major challenge faced by stakeholders are difficulties in maintaining attendance and participation, followed by troubles in acquiring funding and equipment. The second survey was a community survey, where we surveyed 89 students in the UBC community on their self-perceived levels of food literacies, as well as their workshop experiences, preferences and their opinions and expectations on these workshops. While only one student out of the surveyed 89 reported to have participated in workshops, many students reported interest and high willingness to participate. Surveyed students however, reported limited knowledge on the available workshops on campus. Among the surveyed students, a weak positive correlation between food literacy levels and willingness to attend workshops has been identified; suggesting students who are more food literate are more likely to attend campus workshops. This posed a major question: what limits non food literate individuals from attending workshops to gain better skills? We found a weak positive correlation between food literacy and willingness to pay for workshops; suggesting cost may be one of many factors limiting self-reported food illiterate people from attending workshops. Some trends regarding specific student demographics (e.g. international vs. local status) and willingness to participate in and pay for workshops are also identified; suggesting workshops stakeholders should focus on advertisements to the international student body as they are both more likely to be food insecure while also more interested in attending workshops. More statistical data is required to prove these relationships. Focusing on the stakeholder reported difficulties in maintaining attendance and participation as well as the community reported lack of knowledge on workshops, we suggest that advertising and promotional efforts on these workshops should be improved to increase students’ knowledge of these events. Stakeholders are also encouraged to collaborate with each other, where the sharing of equipment and facilities may be able to relieve some difficulties faced by stakeholders. Further research on the factors limiting food literacy levels and the willingness to participate in workshops are also encouraged as the results can help our stakeholders identify their target audiences. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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