Topical Area: Nutrition Education and Behavioral Science, Obesity
Objectives : To explore differences in eating competence among first-year and upperclass college students (18-24 years), as well as the differences related to dining hall usage.
Methods : Data were collected between 2015-17; students (n=1057) were recruited from a midsize, northeastern university to participate in an ongoing health survey. Students completed the Eating Competence Satter Inventory (ecSI), as well as the self-reported frequency of meals obtained from the university dining hall, as part of an online questionnaire. Proportional differences between first-year and upperclass students were analyzed via chi-square analyses. Mean differences between eating competence scores and frequency of dining hall meals/week (0, 1-6, 7-13, 14-20, ³21) were evaluated via ANCOVA; age, BMI, sex, semester, year of data collection, and academic class year served as covariates.
Results : Students had a mean age of 18.9±0.03 years; 66.7% were female and 53.4% were first-year. The mean ecSI score was 33.3±0.3; more than half of students (58.2%) were considered eating competent (³32). No differences in ecSI scores between first-year and upperclass students were observed (33.2±0.4 vs. 33.5±0.4, P=0.63). Students who report ³21 dining hall meals/week had the highest ecSI scores as compared to 0, 1-6, 7-13, 14-20 meals/week (36.7±0.6 vs. 31.4±.9, 32.0±0.6, 31.5±0.6, 33.8±0.4, all respectively P< 0.01).
Our findings do not suggest differences in eating competence between first-year and upperclass students, however, students who utilize the university dining hall for at least 3 meals per day had the highest eating competence. These findings may be of interest to campus dietitians and educators interested in promoting healthy eating behaviors and attitudes on their campuses.
Funding Sources : New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Stations and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Project 1010738