Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

The Efficacy of Early Childhood Educators as Role Models of Nutrition Behavior

Department

Hospitality & Tourism Management Department

College

College of Community and Public Service

Disciplines

Business

Abstract

Objective: This pilot study sought to determine the efficacy of early childhood educators to provide nutrition education and role modeling for young children. Theory, Prior Research and Rational: Childhood obesity has doubled in the last 20 years and greatly impacts the health and wellbeing of young children. Childcare centers, preschools and elementary schools are essential components of childrens food environments and provide ideal settings for teaching children to adopt healthy eating behaviors. Teachers can influence young childrens eating habits, impacting health throughout the lifespan, through role modeling and age-appropriate curriculum. Study Design, Setting, Participants: A nutrition knowledge test of early childhood education graduate students (n=63) in a large Midwest public university. Outcome Measures and Analysis: Descriptive statistics were used to analyze nutrition knowledge and the ability to apply nutrition knowledge to food choices. Results: The mean test score was 53.9% ±12%. Respondents were able to accurately select the healthier food from a paired choice 94% of the time but only 20.6% of responses were correct when selecting multiple good sources of an essential nutrient from a list of foods and only 28% of responses were correct to questions about dietary guideline recommendations for young children. Conclusions and Implications: This study indicates early childhood educators may not have the knowledge and skills necessary to positively impact childrens nutrition. As recommended by the Institute of Medicine, requiring nutrition coursework in early childhood education programs is essential to assist teachers and childcare providers in teaching and modeling evidenced-based nutrition concepts to young children. How to best support teachers ongoing nutrition education needs further investigation.

Conference Name

Nutrition Education Impacts: Local to Global

Conference Location

Milwaukee, WI

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