Increasing Teen Nutrition and Produce Consumption Through Cultural Recipe Interventions

May 3, 2022


Frequency of produce consumption is one of the most accurate methods of assessing nutrition quality, an indicator for other health measures that are linked to long-term well-being and thus quality of life. While most studies recommend 5+ servings, over 70% of adolescents do not meet such standards and thus increase their likelihoods of developing a wide range of crippling chronic health issues including heart disease, eye problems, and cancer. It is critical to reduce inadequacies in fruit and vegetable eating patterns as early as possible so that the improvement of lifestyle quality can be maximized via the formation of healthy habits.

Research + Aims

My initial user interviews and Fremont Union High School District-wide 90-student survey confirmed the need for fruit-and-vegetable interventions locally. When I assessed individuals’ knowledge and habits in a questionnaire, I found that common reasons for inadequacies in fruit and vegetable consumption were students’ general preference for other foods’ flavor and textures, as well as other activities’ tendencies to take precedence over cooking. As such, my community project aims to empower fellow teens to make more health-conscious choices by increasing their produce consumption to reduce chronic illnesses and increase long-term quality of life by cooking themselves. I will help my peers build long-lasting habits starting now.

Project Action

I have created and distributed around 30 appealing, modified cafeteria recipes that easily provide room for fruit and vegetable additions via the newly-created FUHSD cafeteria website, club emails, and local newsletters. Since cafeteria recipes are relatively uncomplicated and have already been tested for appeal by the student population, I am excited to and have shown in my project that their usage can be broadened for health purposes when cooked at home with the addition of produce ingredients. While considering the cultural diversities of the FUHSD student population, these recipes range in global origin from East to West and are imbued with an American twist. The recipes’ familiarity increases their perceived credibility and thus usage by my peers, which also increases the opportunities for them to add fruits and vegetables to those recipes — and their eating habits. I have supplemented each recipe with a resource guide that uses a logical approach to convince readers of the benefits of consuming more produce.

Results + Next Steps

I am currently compiling feedback, which has generally been positive, from students who have tested recipes. In a month, I will be presenting at Foothill College’s Research and Leadership Symposium, where I hope that the current state of this project may serve as a pilot for student take-home recipes in other demographic areas and can be implemented (after modification on a case-to-case basis) to increase more individuals’ produce-consuming efficacy. Considering the disparities in produce access across different demographics, my next steps are to pitch a replicable action plan, which, after undergoing extensive feedback from my mentor at UC Berkeley Public Health, Michelle, will be distributed to other student groups and school districts to improve more students’ eating habits and wellbeing.

Learn more about Monta Vista High School’s Equity Projects!

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