“School Day Eating Habits of Inner-City, African American Adolescents.”

January 16 2010 No Commented

Journal of Negro Education, Volume 78, Number 2, pp 114-122 (Spring 2009) (with Dr. Thomas McDuffie)

What food attributes drive minority adolescents’ food choices? What do these adolescents consume during the school day in terms of “energy” dense versus “nutrient” dense foods? What knowledge do their parents or guardians’ have regarding their food consumption during the school day? What “energy” and “nutrient” dense foods are available on school premises? Adolescents are human “eating and drinking machines.” As such they represent a significant opportunity for food providers. Alternatively, the childhood obesity crisis especially minority youth represents a real crisis to school administrators and school food providers. School administrators and food providers need to better understand what drives these young consumers in order to keep them as customers and avoid a potential backlash from parents, the community, and public policy makers. This paper reports the findings of a study on African-American adolescents and food, specifically their attitudes, constraints and behaviors during the school day. The study is based on data collected in two Philadelphia, PA public schools–one middle schools and one high school—with very high African-American student presence. Three areas of the findings have implications for improving the school day diet of African-American adolescents. These are related first to the parental role in constraining what students eat during the school day. Second, the sensory reality food providers must factor into any change in menus. Lastly, the nutrition standards need to be addressed during the instructional day.

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