Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



High fruit and vegetable (FV) intake is associated with healthy weights and decreased risk of chronic disease. Yet, adolescent FV intakes fall below national recommendations. Few studies involve racial/ethnic minority adolescents in formative research, despite their increased risk of poor FV intake. Consequently, the purpose of this study was to describe the type and frequency of FV intake of urban multicultural young adolescents, and to examine their attitudes and beliefs towards increased consumption of FV. A convenience sample (n=79) of racially diverse (e.g., 31% Hispanic/Latino, 27.4% Black/African American) grade seven students, participated in our study comprised of a self-administered survey with culturally adapted FV food frequency questionnaire (FVFFQ) and focus group discussions. The FVFFQ revealed that hand fruit was the most highly consumed fruit among our students, while consumption of vegetables was more evenly distributed. Preferred FV among racial/ethnic population groups ranged with Hispanic/Latino identifying citrus, leafy green vegetables preferred by Black/African American, tropical fruit by Asian and Whites reporting cooked vegetables. Availability of preferred vegetables as school significantly influenced vegetable intake (p=0.038). Family attitudes towards vegetables also influenced student FV behaviors (diet diversity (DD) score, p=0.008; FV self-efficacy scores, p=0.019). The median DD score (73%) indicated moderate compliance with national FV intake recommendations among students with red, orange, and ‘other’ vegetables requiring the most improvement in intake. Focus group discussions revealed important barriers to FV intake, including a preference for consuming ‘junk food’ for snacks over FV, a lack of availability of preferred vegetables at school, and parental financial constraints, which limited availability of preferred produce at homes. Students’ suggested strategies to motivate increased FV intake included greater incentives and modeling from parents, improved recipes and taste tests for vegetables served at school and greater availability of culturally diverse produce represented in school menu. Students emphasized social media for FV promotion targeted at adolescents. Overall, our findings suggest young adolescents are open to increased FV intake, but require a supportive home and school environment, with access to cultural and preferred produce; students indicated a keen interest in involvement with FV promotion initiatives undertaken in their school.

First Advisor

Lindiwe Sibeko

Second Advisor

Lisa M. Troy