We have three research projects completed or underway related to the NEI Resource Guide.
Our first project focused on the evaluation of the program, addressing the assessment of three outcomes: 1) extent of participation in the program, including number of participating schools and teachers; 2) extent of student contacts with NEI content, and 3) healthier eating practices in middle school students as determined by an increase in consumption of dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit and grains and a decrease in consumption of fats and sugar. Data, collected in 2001-02 and 2002-03, show that a total of 15 schools and 32 teachers from the North Florida region participated in the project. Further, a total of 11,432 student contacts, defined as when students received NEI instruction, were reported during the two years of data collection. Pre-/post-test food recall data show that, in general, the students in both 2001-02 and 2002-03 increased their consumption of dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains and decreased consumption of fats/sugars after NEI instruction. Results of non-matched paired t-tests showed no significant findings in pre-/post-test food recall scores. Yet, in general, it appears that the NEI Resource Guide had a positive impact on the daily consumption patterns for the students who received instruction.
The second project was conducted in our local Leon County school system. The scope of the work for the project included conducting a process evaluation which examined: 1) the usefulness of the NEI Resource Guide for the teachers involved in the project, and 2) the possible changes in eating habits among students who participated.
During a four-hour workshop in the spring of 2004, sixteen teachers, representing nine public middle schools in Leon County, participated in a project focusing on the examination of the usefulness of utilizing the NEI Resource Guide. Following a training workshop and use of the Resource Guide, fifteen teachers participated in group interviews. Overall, teachers reported that the NEI Resource Guide was a valuable tool in that it could be integrated into a variety of content areas rather than taught as a set curriculum and they were able to select information that was relevant for their particular units and lessons. However, some teachers suggested that larger health goals be addressed in a mandatory health class.
In total, 2,390 seventh grade students received nutrition education instruction through use of the NEI Resource Guide. A subset of 309 students, representing two middle schools, completed teacher-administered food recall logs which focused on foods consumed during lunch. The findings from students show that implementation of the NEI Resource Guide did result in changes in dietary behavior. Students at both middle schools increased fruit and vegetable consumption and decreased fried vegetables and fat. Consistent with this overall pattern, consumption of fruit and the combined fruit/juice increased. Although there were some mixed findings, the good news is that there was a decline in fat and sugar consumption.
The third project is currently underway. We invited all middle school and high school teachers to attend a workshop entitled, “Obesity and Youth,” in June 2005. A total of 40 teachers attended the workshop, which included background information on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, an update on nutrition and physical activity content, and strategies to assist teachers in implementing the NEI Resource Guide. All teachers received the Resource Guide as a result of the workshop and were encouraged to be empowered leaders to promote healthy behaviors in their schools. We are tracking the teachers overtime to determine their activities, especially leadership within their schools and use of the Resource Guide.