Date of Award

Summer 8-21-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Foods and Nutrition


Mona Therrien

Second Committee Member

Kate Yerxa

Third Committee Member

Mary Ellen Camire


Food insecurity in the United States is a complex issue. Nutrition interventions and studies are often designed for high-risk populations with others being overlooked. Until recently, few studies and interventions have focused on college-aged students. In order to understand the nutrition-related needs of students at the University of Maine, it is necessary to determine their cooking knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and food security status. Study participants included college sophomores, juniors, and seniors [n=16 sophomores, (38.1%), n=15 juniors, (35.7%), n=11 seniors, (26.2%)]. The study design was cross-sectional where participants completed a combined Qualtrics online survey and the Automated Self-Administered 24-Hour Dietary Assessment Tool (ASA24®). The combined Qualtrics survey consisted of two validated questionnaires: the “Cooking with Chef (CWC)” survey and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) “Food and Physical Activity Questionnaire.” This was supplemented with additional validated food security questions. The ASA24® was used by participants to report dietary intake over the 24-hour period and the Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2015 edition was used to determine dietary quality. The University of Maine Institutional Review Board approved the study protocol. Consented participants completed one combined survey using Qualtrics and the ASA24®. Thirty-three questions of interest were selected from the Qualtrics survey from the total question bank for further analysis to assess their relationship to dietary quality. Survey responses were analyzed using frequency and distribution tables with Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 26.0). Pearson’s correlation (for parametric data) and Kendall-Tau correlation (for non-parametric data) tests were utilized to determine the correlation between the total HEI score and cooking attitudes, knowledge, behavior, and food security status. Independent t-test analysis was conducted between significantly correlated variables and the total HEI score to determine if there was a relationship between said variables and diet quality. Significance was set at (P< 0.05) for statistical analyses. Between the different grade levels of survey participants, sophomores had a lower total HEI score than juniors (P= 0.009), but not seniors (P= 0.497). Comparing the HEI sub-score national averages of adults age 18-64 to participant data, whole fruit (P= 0.000), dark green and orange vegetables and legumes (P=0.009), total protein (P= 0.000), seafood, and plant protein (P= 0.000) sub-scores were all significantly lower than the national average. Fatty acids (P= 0.000), added sugars (P= 0.002), and saturated fat (P= 0.000) sub-scores were all significantly above the national average. The total HEI score of the study sample was not significantly different from the national average (P= 0.154). Among cooking behaviors, preparing food from basic ingredients (P= 0.043), and preparing foods using fresh herbs and spices (P= 0.006) was correlated with a significantly higher total HEI score. Food security status had no significant impact on the total HEI score. Further research is warranted to truly understand the food security status of students at the University of Maine, and how it impacts diet quality. A larger sample size, including students living on and off-campus, is necessary to better understand dietary needs