Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition


Food Science and Nutrition


Dr. Lisa Nicholson


In the past 20 years, the way in which food is prepared has rapidly changed. Convenience has become a way of life and Americans have replaced meals made from scratch with meals that are quick and easy. During that time, body mass index has risen steadily. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children has become common in the American population. “Pink Chefs,” a six-week culinary intervention for middle school girls 12 to 14-years-old, was developed and piloted to combat childhood obesity by teaching nutrition through basic cooking skills. The social cognitive theory was used as the theoretical framework. The goals of this program were to increase the subjects’ self-efficacy for cooking; to build knowledge for healthful dietary practices; and to provide a fun and safe environment conducive for interactive learning. This culinary enrichment program was piloted in reduced-income communities in south San Luis Obispo County, California, with 22 self-selected participants. Surveys were used to measure self-efficacy, knowledge, barriers and diet pre- versus post-intervention. Post-intervention measures demonstrated a significant (p = 0.005) intervention effect on self- efficacy for cooking. No significant increases were observed for knowledge, barriers and diet. This research, like that of Larson et al. (2006), illustrated that honing both skills and knowledge learned in a practical setting is one of the first steps for increasing self-efficacy for dietary improvements.