Abstract

food & health lab at MSU

Selena Ahmed and Carmen Byker Shanks at MSU's Food and Health Lab

Increases in diet-related chronic diseases represent a major public concern that is exacerbated in rural and tribal communities in the United States where access to affordable and nutritious foods may be limited. However, the causal pathways linking limited access to nutrient-dense foods including FVs to health measures are not well understood. The proposed study seeks to contribute to our understanding of the multiple socio-ecological factors and causal pathways that influence food choices, diets, and health. Our overall hypothesis is that increased availability of affordable FVs in the food environment is not enough to support healthy food choices and efforts to influence food choices and health outcomes can be enhanced by considering multiple socio-ecological factors including improving nutrition knowledge and cooking skills.

We will apply a socio-ecological framework to test our overall hypothesis through a three-month multiple phase FV intervention implemented at the Federal Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) center at the Flathead Reservation with 20 tribal community members. First, we will determine if increased availability of fresh FVs at the FDPIR center influences food choices of participants. Next, we will examine the contribution of nutrition and cooking education on food choices and perceptions of FDPIR participants and compare this with the increased availability of FVs without providing nutrition and cooking education. Concurrently, we will evaluate differences in diet composition before, during, and after the various phases of the FV intervention as measured by the Healthy Eating Index and Dietary Diversity Scores. Furthermore, we will assess if increased availability of fresh FVs and nutrition and cooking education through the FDPIR produce significant differences in health outcomes including total body composition, blood pressure, and glucose and insulin concentrations of participants. Lastly, we will identify challenges and opportunities for ordering FVs for the FDPIR at the center, state, and policy levels. This project has the potential of improving the health of individuals by elucidating the socio-ecological factors that contribute to food choices to design interventions and suggest policies that are effective in supporting healthy food environments and healthy choices.

Specific Aims

  1. FOOD CHOICES – Determine if increased availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Federal Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) center influences food choices of participants and how this compares before and after providing nutrition and cooking education.

  2. DIET COMPOSITIONEvaluate differences in diet composition before, during, and after the various phases of the FV intervention as measured by the Healthy Eating Index and Dietary Diversity Scores.   

  3. HEALTH OUTCOMESAssess if increased availability of fresh FVs and nutrition and cooking education through the FDPIR produce significant differences on total body composition, blood pressure, and glucose and insulin concentrations of participants.

  4. SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS – Identify the challenges and opportunities for ordering FVs for the FDPIR at the center, state, and policy levels. 

Primary Contact

Selena Ahmed selena.ahmed@montana.edu