The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether selected nutrition education lessons from the Up for the Challenge: Health, Fitness, and Nutrition curriculum could contribute to change in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors about nutrition with low-income youth in afterschool programs. Up for the Challenge is a curriculum for the promotion of healthful nutrition knowledge, attitudes and behaviors with youth. The curriculum is based on experiential learning model that is structured around direct participation: experiencing, thinking, discussing, and applying what the youth have learned to their daily lives. Five research question/hypotheses guided this investigation.
A quasi-experimental design consisting of pretest-posttest comparison control group was used. The intervention in this study consisted of six nutrition lessons from the curriculum. To evaluate the nutrition education lessons, three measurements were taken at pretest (time 1), posttest (time 2), and delayed posttest (time 3). Participants included youth in two afterschool programs receiving nutrition education lessons through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program of Penn State Nutrition Links. A total of 86 students both in the treatment and control groups participated in the study.
A four-part evaluation tool was developed to collect data. Part one contained questions pertaining to general nutrition knowledge and physical activity. Part two contained statements about attitude towards nutrition, fruits and vegetable consumption, and eating healthy and making healthful food choices. Part three contained statements on nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Part four contained demographic questions such as gender, age, grade level and ethnicity.
Hands-on nutrition education lessons were taught to youth in the treatment group each week over a four-week period. Pretest data was collected before intervention, posttest data collected after the four weeks of intervention, and delayed posttest data collected after two weeks of posttest data collection. The control group did not receive any lessons.
General linear model (GLM) procedures were performed. Results from repeated measures ANCOVA posttest and delayed posttest with pretest as a covariate showed that youth who received nutrition education lessons significantly improved their nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and nutrition behaviors compared to those who did not participate in the lessons. Physical activity knowledge and physical activity behaviors also improved from pretest to posttest and delayed posttest. However, factorial ANOVA with repeated measures pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest indicated no significant differences between nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and nutrition behaviors when participants were examined by gender, grade level, and age.
The significant improvement for nutrition knowledge and physical activity knowledge, attitudes, and nutrition behaviors and physical activity behaviors indicated program effectiveness regardless of the demographic characteristics examined in the study. These results suggest that the selected nutrition education lessons form Up for the Challenge curriculum are ready for dissemination within the studied groups. It is recommended that the nutrition education lessons be tested in multiple settings with a diverse group for generalization of results. Nutrition educators, youth and parents should work closely together to implement nutrition education programs.