Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

10-12-2015

Degree Program

Nutrition

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Elena

Advisor Middle Initial

T.

Advisor Last Name

Carbone

Co-advisor Name

Lindiwe

Co-advisor Last Name

Sibeko

Abstract

Studies have shown that many low-income and disadvantaged Americans have a poor diet quality, which increases obesity and chronic disease risk. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, education and income levels of Springfield residents are well below state averages, and racial diversity in Springfield has increased significantly over the past few decades. Springfield’s demographics increase the risk of health disparities in the community, and higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are seen in Springfield. To promote healthy eating behaviors among Springfield residents, Mason Square Health Task Force (MSHTF), a Live Well Springfield (LWS) partner, created a 6-session nutrition curriculum, entitled The MENU Program. The goal was to increase overall health awareness and healthy eating behaviors among residents in communities that are being targeted by the LWS initiative. Topics of the The MENU Program included MyPlate guidelines and label reading, budget shopping and cooking, healthy restaurant choices, diet and chronic disease, and food justice. The objective of this study was to evaluate The MENU Program to assess its strengths, weaknesses, and effectiveness using both quantitative and qualitative data from surveys, process evaluation, and facilitator observations. There were two phases of this study: Phase 1 was the evaluation of the pilot program delivered to a group of senior women recruited through the Dunbar YMCA; Phase 2 evaluated the second offering of the curriculum to Mason Square residents enrolled in the Task Force Fit Challenge. All participants responded positively to The MENU Program sessions and positive changes were seen in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors after both Phases. Participant-perceived useful material included handouts, group discussions, and hands-on activities. Observational data supports the usefulness of group discussion over lecture-based teaching methods. This study supports the use of The MENU Program as an effective community education program for Springfield, MA. It has the potential to positively influence residents’ diet quality and nutrition-related behaviors through improved nutrition knowledge and attitudes.

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