Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition


Food Science and Nutrition


Lisa Nicholson


The prevalence of adolescent obesity in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past 30 years, growing from 5% to nearly 21% in 12-19 year olds. Although obesity has many interrelated causes, a lack of knowledge and practical skill to prepare healthy food from scratch is an important factor. Research indicates that nutrition and culinary interventions based on behavioral change theories may improve mediators of healthful eating in adolescents.

Pink and Dude Chefs, Phase 2, an eight-week after-school nutrition and culinary intervention targeted towards middle school students in a predominantly low-income, Hispanic community, was developed and evaluated. The curriculum called “Around the World” was designed to enhance knowledge and cooking skills through a multicultural approach. Participants learned about the food culture and customs of a different country each week and then created a recipe of that country from scratch. Research assistants from California Polytechnic State University implemented the lessons.

The program took place at Mesa Middle School in Arroyo Grande, CA over two consecutive academic quarters, Fall 2013 and Winter 2014. Participants were 16 seventh- and eighth-grade students aged 12-14. The program consisted of 8 lessons that were divided into a classroom-based learning portion and a kitchen-based cooking portion. A pre- and post-intervention survey was developed to assess change in self-efficacy for cooking, cooking skills, nutrition knowledge, outcome expectancies, and perceived social and family norms.

Paired t-tests indicated that participants demonstrated a significant increase in nutrition knowledge (PP=0.02) after participation in Pink and Dude Chefs, Phase 2. Empowering youth by improving food-related knowledge and skills is an important step toward improving the health of our nation. Further research is needed to examine how nutrition and culinary interventions may impact long-term health promoting behaviors.

Included in

Nutrition Commons