Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dietetics and Nutrition

First Advisor's Name

Catherine Coccia

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Cristina Palacios

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Adriana Campa

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Florence George

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Nutrition, Nutrition education, Food insecurity, College food insecurity, College health

Date of Defense



As higher education becomes more attainable to all populations, college students from low-income backgrounds are at an increased risk of food insecurity due to the financial burdens that come with the transition to college. Food insecurity on U.S. college campuses ranges up to 59%, quadrupling the average national household food insecurity rate of 14%. In college students, food insecurity is correlated with unhealthy eating, alcohol use, and mental health issues.

The aim of this study was to develop and examine the feasibility and promise of a Social Cognitive Theory based, urban gardening, cooking and nutrition education intervention on health behavior mediators, fruit and vegetable intake, stress, and life satisfaction in food insecure college students. In this 8-week randomized control trial, 107 food insecure college students were randomized to participate in a hands-on, interactive 6-week cooking and gardening intervention (n=42) or a control group (n=47).

Analysis of baseline data demonstrated significant correlations between baseline characteristics and health outcomes. High nutrition knowledge (β=.346, t=3.73, Pt=3.25, P=.002) were correlated with increased fruit and vegetable intake (R2=.201), parental financial support (β=.227, t=2.32, P=.022) and negative personal health views (β=-.221, t=-2.26, P=.026) we correlated with higher BMI (R2=.115), and females (β=.360, t=4.13, Pt=-2.33, P=.022), and low reciprocal determinism (β=.200, t=2.18, P=.032) were correlated with increased stress (R2=.246) and decreased life satisfaction (R2=.149). Students who participated in the intervention experienced a significant improvement in health mediators such as self-efficacy (F=17.65, PF=4.16, P=.045), and personal health views (F=5.65, P=.023), as well as fruit and vegetable intake (F=19.19, PF=16.20, PF=18.99, P

This study demonstrates the feasibility and effectiveness of a cooking and gardening nutrition program to improve diet and mental health indicators in this population. These findings contribute to the current body of knowledge by providing further insight into methods to help alleviate the negative effects of food insecurity in college students. Future studies should determine the long-term effects of such programs on a wider scale of universities.






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