Poster Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition

Location: Auditorium

Poster Board Number: 143

P06-123 - “I eat whatever I see before I run out the door ”: A Qualitative Study to Understand Adolescent Food Environments and Food Choices

Monday, Jun 11
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Objective: The objective of this study was to explore adolescents' perceptions of their food environment (community, home, and school).

Methods: Adolescents from one high school participated in focus groups to describe perceptions, facilitators, and barriers associated with food and how those factors influenced food choice. Five structured focus groups, with 5-8 participants per focus group (total participants=30), were conducted with students enrolled in a wellness course. Students were randomly chosen from a larger group of students who had participated in a larger health-related school research project. A single intrinsic case study design was used to highlight unique participant experiences. Data analyses included multiple rounds of first cycle coding (in vivo, process, and value), second cycle coding (focused), and code mapping to determine overall themes.

Results: Three overarching themes emerged related to all food environments: convenience, autonomy of food choice, and irregular eating patterns. Participants reported that being able to choose desired food items in all food environments was of utmost importance, and this often contributed to participant involvement in food preparation practices, such as packing their school lunch or assisting with grocery shopping. In addition, students who reported not having drivers' licenses or used technology for meal planning perceived differences related to increased healthy food availability in their respective food environments.

Conclusions: Control of ability to select healthy, convenient, and acceptable food options in multiple adolescent food environments appears to be an important focus for inclusion in interventions promoting adolescent healthy eating patterns. Further research is needed on the relationship that may exist between access to transportation and food environments as well as the use of technology for meal planning with adolescent food behavior.

Funding Source:

This abstract is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2014-67001-21851.

CoAuthors: Lauren Moret, PhD – University of Tennessee; Melissa Vilaro, PhD, MPH, CPH – University of Florida; Marsha Spence, PhD, MPH, RDN, LDN – University of Tennessee; Elizabeth Anderson Steeves, PhD, MS, RDN, LDN – University of Tennessee; Wenjun Zhou, PhD, MS – University of Tennessee; Melissa Olfert, DrPH, MS, RDN, LDN – West Virginia University; Sarah Colby, PhD, RDN, LDN – University of Tennessee

Kristin A. Riggsbee

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant
University of Tennessee
Maryville, Tennessee