Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Ike Okosun

Second Advisor

Rodney Lyn

Abstract

Background: Over the past decade, the U.S. has struggled to effectively address the childhood obesity epidemic. Healthy eating is paramount to child health, especially in terms of obesity prevention. The rate of obese adolescents in grades 9-12 between 2005 and 2013 remained about the same in Georgia, decreased in New Jersey, and increased in Kentucky. It is possible that school meals could be different amongst these states.

Methods: This study analyzed changes and differences in school food preparation practices between 3 selected states. These regions were chosen based on their relatively low (New Jersey), intermediate (Georgia), and high (Kentucky) obesity rates. Both SHPPS 2006 and 2012 nutrition services data was chosen for this analysis to look at changes in school food preparation practices in each state and in the overall sample over time using independent samples t-tests and one way ANOVA.

Results: Overall, statistically significant changes (p<.05) in food preparation practices were observed in seven out of 22 food preparation practice variables between 2006 and 2012. New Jersey and Georgia improved their food preparation practices between 2006 and 2012 while Kentucky improved in some areas and worsened in others. Between states comparisons showed Kentucky had several practices different from New Jersey and Georgia in 2006 but by 2012 there were very few differences between states.

Discussion: These states have improved in some areas of school food preparation practices while other areas still need improvement. The state with the highest adolescent obesity rate was the only state to show declines in the average use of healthier school food preparation practices. Public health efforts should seek to address barriers to providing healthy foods in schools for regions that show the need for intervention.

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