Date of Award

4-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Rodney Bushway

Third Committee Member

Louis Morin

Abstract

The objective of this study was to evaluate the perceived and observed food environment on the University of Maine campus as it relates to Green Eating. Green Eating (GE) is a term describing eating practices adopted with the goal to lessen one’s impact on the environment through food choices. GE practices, such as choosing locally grown and organic produce as well as choosing to eat more vegetarian and vegan meals, are considered to be more healthful and environmentally friendly. College students are at a point in their lives where individual eating habits are being established. College campus nutrition environments can provide opportunities or barriers to both healthful and Green Eating practices.

The nutrition environment on the University of Maine campus was evaluated using two different instruments: The Green Eating Survey, designed by Greene, and the Campus Dining Environment Audit Tool (CDEAT). The Green Eating survey was administered to students (n=206) living on campus. Questions in the survey were designed to identify the behavioral stages of change of the students in relation to Green Eating, as well as their feelings of self-efficacy and the benefits and barriers they perceived to eating green. The CDEAT was modified by this researcher based on the Nutrition Environment Modified Measures Survey for Campus Dining. Campus dining facilities (n=11) were audited using the CDEAT. The tools were evaluated using Geographic Information System (GIS) software in order to try to establish a geographical relationship between the beliefs and behavior of students on campus and the healthfulness and GE facilitators of the dining facilities.

Based on the Green Eating Survey, 75% of respondents self-identified in the pre-action stages of change for GE behavior (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation), while the remaining 25% of participants selfidentified in the post-action stages of change (action and maintenance). Participants in post-action stages of change were significantly more likely to participate in GE behavior (p=0.0001) and to consider environmental issues important (p=0.0001, females; p=0.001, males). Participants who were in the post-action group were also associated with higher dietary quality, namely lower intakes of fast food among both genders (p=0.003), fewer servings of red meat per week among females (p=0.004), and more servings of fruits and vegetables per day among females (p=0.002).

The CDEAT scores were highest among the three dining halls and the student union. These facilities had more variety of healthful and Green foods. The high-scoring facilities had more main dishes that qualified as “healthful,” and provided more facilitators to Green Eating through signage and promotions.

Based on GIS mapping, there was no geographic relationship between the scores of the dining facilities and the stages of change of the students living on campus. Higher scoring facilities were located near the dormitories where students lived, while more of the lower-scoring facilities were located in the center of campus, away from the dormitories.

Students who regularly practiced GE behavior were more likely to have higher dietary quality and to place importance on environmentally responsible behavior. Based on the findings of this study, dining facilities on the University of Maine campus generally provide many facilitators for students to eat Green, healthful diets.

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