According to Nebraska Health and Human Services, American Indians in Nebraska are more likely to die from diabetes-related causes than are all other racial and ethnic groups. Emulating the 2002-03 USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program model, the Wa-dooch Pinx-gi (Really Good Eating) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Intervention Project was designed to (1) study and address the awareness and behavior associated with an unhealthy diet and (2) seek strategies and solutions to positively change Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC) students’ unhealthy eating behaviors. These goals were met through the implementation of a two-semester multifaceted food distribution program and complemented by a series of nutrition education programs. The programs assisted students who are current and former recipients of food assistance to make the transition to healthy eating for themselves and their families through education, participant feedback, and introduction of healthy fruits and vegetables into their daily diets.
Over the course of the study, two experimental programs, the Really Good Eating Program and the Dinner Program, and four participant surveys were conducted. In November 2007, a baseline survey was conducted to determine students’ eating habits prior to participation in the healthy eating program. In that survey, participants were asked to identify (1) their typical eating habits, including the frequency of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, (2) types and amounts of snacks consumed daily, (3) the principal person who shops and prepares most of the meals in their home, and (4) the frequency that fresh fruits and vegetables were served in their home.
In April 2008, a followup survey was conducted to determine the impacts of student participation in the healthy eating program on their food choices and behaviors. Questions asked of students included the following:
How often did they eat the fresh fruits made available by the Really Good Eating program?
Had participation in the program changed their eating habits?
Had they tried new and different items as a result of the program?
Were they serving more fresh fruits and vegetables at home?
Did the students note any changes physically and mentally due to their participation in the Really Good Eating program?
As a result of the positive response to the Really Good Eating Program, an experimental dinner program was started in fall 2008. The Dinner Program hypothesized that a simple, nutritious dinner for the students would result in lower evening class tardiness, improved focus in class, and a measurable decrease in the evening class attrition rates.
The results of the Really Good Eating Program showed that 55 percent of the participants (n=33) reported eating more fruits and vegetables than before the program started. Forty-five percent reported that the fruits and vegetables eaten came only from the program, while 47 percent reported that the fresh fruits and vegetables came from the program as well as from other sources. Thirty-nine percent said that they were eating healthier foods since the program began. Almost all (97 percent) of the respondents reported that their participation in the program resulted in their serving more fresh fruits and vegetables at home. A third of the respondents (34 percent) reported that fresh fruits and vegetables were served on a regular basis. The most encouraging result from the survey was that 84 percent of the respondents reported a positive change in their physical well-being, with almost half stating that they had more energy. When asked about concentration and study skills, 55 percent reported a noticeable increase in these abilities.
An initial survey of Dinner Program participants (n=55) was conducted in September 2008. About 40 percent of participants reported always eating dinner, while another 24 percent reported eating dinner most of the time, prior to attending classes. Almost 90 percent reported never missing class even if they had to miss dinner. Of the top reasons given for coming to class without dinner, 65 percent of participants cited the lack of time and another 22 percent stated the need to provide dinner and/or care for their children.
A followup survey (n=45) of Dinner Program participants was conducted in October 2008. The primary goal of this survey was to determine if the Dinner Program was being used by the students. Eighty-two percent of the students had participated in the program, and the majority of them did so regularly. All of the participants wanted to see the Dinner Program continue.
Direct inquiries about this study to the Project Contact listed above.