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The nutrition related-related behaviour we are addressing is increasing fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption for those living in urban food deserts. We are specifically targeting food insecure young adults in the Guelph community, who are likely in the transitional period of living on their own for the first time and having to take on new financial responsibilities. These young adults also have limited access to grocery stores, and more specifically limited access to fresh FVs. It is important to address this behaviour since many Canadians aren’t eating enough FVs on a daily basis.
According to a Stats Canada (2016) report, only 30% of Canadians above the age of 12 were self-reporting their consumption of at least 5 servings of FV per day. This is a problem since FVs are essential to our diets as they provide lots of fibre and phytonutrients, which were found to be associated with the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases (Savoie-Roskos, Wengreen & Durward, 2017). The Heart and Stroke foundation confirms that insufficient FV consumption is a big cause in the development of heart disease, stroke, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes (2013).
A recent review found 10 different studies that could increase children and youth’s FV consumption with a variety of different gardening interventions (Savoie-Roskos et al., 2017). This being said, providing specific resources and interventions to increase FV consumption in young adults living in Guelph food deserts is likely to be successful in promoting this component of a healthy lifestyle and preventing the development of various health complications. Potential risk factors that influence this behaviour in the target population:
There are several potential environmental, social and personal factors that affect the intake of FVs for food insecure young adults. To begin, the major environmental risk factor that affects these young adults is the area which they live in; food deserts. Food deserts usually only have convenience stores, meaning their residents have little to no access to fresh food on a consistent basis. Individuals living in these areas generally have low income, making transportation to grocery stores outside of these food deserts another challenge (Guelph Wellbeing, 2014).
Location is a problem on its own, but limited funds to purchase healthy foods even if they have access to them worsens the problem. Low income areas are often associated with individuals with little or no post-secondary education, which could mean these individuals are less educated on basic proper nutrition. Per Stats Canada (2016), the families with at least one member who graduated from post-secondary, are the ones who consume 5 or more servings of FVs daily. Minaker and Hammond (2016) found that children who received As and Bs were more likely to be meeting their FV requirements compared to kids who received Bs and Cs. Parental intake, FV accessibility vs. unhealthy food accessibility in the home and the symbolic value children place on healthy food were found to be barriers to adequate FV consumption in children (Minaker & Hammond, 2016).
These knowledge and familial factors of low intake of FV have led to many school-based gardening interventions in hopes to increase FV consumption in youth and their families through education and practise. A study by Heim, Bauer, Stang and Ireland (2011) introduced a garden-based FV intervention in grade school children which resulted in children asking more often for FV, more availability of FV in the home and an increase in the value the family holds on FV. This shows that education based interventions not only influence children’s knowledge on the importance of FVs but they can influence the family as a whole. Not only is the behaviour impactful on family, it is impactful on a community level.
In the City of Guelph, the task of increasing consumption of FVs is tackled by implementing community gardens that provide opportunities for residents to engage in positive social interactions all while gardening and growing nutritious food (City of Guelph, 2018). This shows that peers can have a big influence on the intake of FV in areas that take the initiative of starting a community garden. There are also attitudes and preference factors that influence FV consumption.
In a study by Flemming (2014), teen participants underwent a summer garden-based education program that mainly included gardening followed by preparing meals from the produce that they grew. Attitudes on new foods changed as the participants were much more likely to try foods that were made with the produce they had grown and vegetables such as green salad, peas, carrots and broccoli were gaining popularity within the group (Flemming, 2014). A nutrition intervention like this not only has the potential to change taste preferences to fresh FV in food insecure young adults, it can change preferences and attitudes towards living a healthier lifestyle.
In conclusion factors such as area of residence, income, education, family, peers, attitudes and preferences are all things to consider when discussing how to increase FV consumption in food insecure young adults.
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