Food literacy in New Zealand school children: food skills
Davis, Nicola Jo
Background: Food literacy refers to the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary for the achievement of a healthy and sustainable diet. Food skills have been recognised as an essential component of food literacy and food skills interventions are commonly implemented in schools with the aim of increasing students’ food literacy. Although children are often targeted by such interventions, little is known about the food skills and food literacy of New Zealand children. A questionnaire has recently been developed to assess the food literacy of Year 6 New Zealand children. Pre-testing has determined this questionnaire is a valid and reliable measure of food literacy, however it has not yet been tested on a large scale. Objective: To establish a baseline measure of the food skills of Year 6 New Zealand school children. Design: Cross-sectional study using a school-based cluster survey design. Methods: Primary schools based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, from low, medium and high deciles were recruited. Schools were eligible for recruitment if they were located within 25km of the designated city centre, had a Year 6 roll greater than 40 students, if they were co-educational and were not classed as private or special. Year 6 children completed the self-administered, online food literacy questionnaire at one time point only. The questionnaire consisted of 42 items and measured the components of food literacy; food skills, nutrition knowledge, and knowledge of food origins. Mean scores attained for each of the defined sub-components of food skills were examined to determine gaps in knowledge. The relationship between self-reported cooking confidence and questionnaire score was also investigated by calculating the correlation between participants’ self-efficacy scores and their corresponding total score for the food skills section. Results: 858 children completed the food literacy questionnaire. Mean scores for the overall questionnaire and food skills section were 66% and 70% respectively, indicating a reasonable degree of food literacy amongst the sample. The highest mean score was attained for the sub-component “knowledge of ingredients in common meals” (88%), and the lowest mean score for the sub-component “knowledge of cooking times for common foods” (49%). Food safety awareness and practical food skills were highlighted as areas that warrant targeting by future food skills interventions. Several questionnaire items were identified as too easy and suggestions for revisions are made. Despite a significant correlation found between self-reported cooking confidence and questionnaire scores (r=0.25, P<0.001), only 6.25% of the variation in questionnaire scores could be explained by the variation in self-reported confidence. Suggesting, therefore, the absence of a relationship between these measures. Conclusion: The questionnaire provided a comprehensive description of the participants’ food skills, and also proved to be a valuable tool for use in a large population-based survey. The questionnaire has the potential to be an important assessment measure in future investigations of the impact of food skills interventions. The results of this study represent the first attempt to formally assess the food skills of Year 6 New Zealand children.
Advisor: Skeaff, Murray; Skeaff, Sheila
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Department of Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis