Research Day

Title

The Role of Nutritional Education for the Homeless

Document Type

Abstract

Date

2017

Abstract

Background and Purpose: Lack of nutritional knowledge in navigating limited dietary options is a major problem for homeless populations. Previous efforts have been focused on encouraging dietary changes by providing basic nutritional information. Still, the homeless have difficulty making these changes due to a lack of choices. This study implemented nutrition fairs at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in downtown Kalamazoo, to inform homeless and transient population about nutrition and making healthier food choices. Methods: The nutrition fair comprised of 4 booths, each providing information about caloric intake, recommended portion size, healthy choices and nutrition labels. The main focus is to arm participants with the skills to make the most out of their food options. Each participant was administered a survey before (pretest) and after (posttest) attending the nutrition fair. The survey assessed how respondents’ dietary choices or satisfaction changed after attending the nutrition fair. There were similar six questions written in plain language with pictures, in both pre-and post-survey. Data was collected over six session and we conducted descriptive statistics. Results: Thirty-two adult participant completed the pre-and post-surveys. The study revealed a statistically significant improvement in nutrition knowledge after receiving information. About 65% of the study subjects did not report any significant change in knowledge. Within this group, several (30%) had perfect scores on the pretest, though this was insignificant. There were also some respondents (9.4%) who scored lower on the posttest than the pretest. We found that lack of education was not a major barrier to healthy eating. However, most of the participants identified insufficient quantities of food to maintain their energy level and weight as a major problem the homeless population encounter. In addition, lack of money was a critical problem and attempts to educate participants to purchase inexpensive produce rather than prepackaged or otherwise unhealthy options were somewhat inconsequential. Conclusions: Our study suggests that nutrition fair could be an efficient method for improving the nutritional knowledge of the homeless population. Rather than healthy choice food, majority of the study participant were concerned about lack of sufficient quantities of food to maintain their energy level and weight. Future nutritional education programs should focus on using items in locally prepared meals to encourage homeless population to make healthier food choices. Keywords: homeless, nutrition, fairs, education, healthy, options, improvement

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