S Koutoubi, M Harrington, S Murdoch, S Garrett
college students, environment, knowledge, nutrition
S Koutoubi, M Harrington, S Murdoch, S Garrett. Environmental Knowledge Of College Nutrition Students. The Internet Journal of Nutrition and Wellness. 2006 Volume 3 Number 2.
Most environmental experts agree that Planet Earth has a finite number of resources to sustain its inhabitants. 1,2 When irresponsible stewardship of the planet occurs, not only does the environment suffer but the people's health is also affected. 3,4,5,6 The areas of Global warming, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Sustainable Food Systems, and United States (U.S.) Organic Standards impact the health of the planet and its inhabitants. 1, 6,7,8,9 Effective nutritionists can educate people not only on nutrition, but can also demonstrate to them how to live a more Earth-friendly lifestyle through their food choices; thus becoming responsible stewards of their home, Earth. 1,2, 10,11,12,13 Surveys have been conducted that analyze students' awareness towards environmentalism but did not necessarily address the interconnection between nutrition and environment, resulting in gaps in this type of research. 14,15,16,17,18 Because genetically modified (GM) foods have recently become abundant in our food supply, surveys assessing people's perceptions/knowledge of GM foods have taken place. 19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26 However, none of these surveys specifically addressed college nutrition students' perceptions or knowledge of GM foods. The main objective of this study is to assess the environmental knowledge of college nutrition students in regards to: global warming, GMOs, sustainable food systems, and U.S. organic standards. The specific objectives are: 1) assess overall combined (juniors and seniors) environmental knowledge, 2) compare Beginning (Fall 2003) mean percentages correct responses to Ending (Spring 2004) percentages for junior and senior nutrition students, and 3) compare Beginning (Fall 2003) mean percentages correct responses of junior nutrition students to Ending (Spring 2004) percentages of senior nutrition students.
Subject Recruitment and Selection
Seventy-two undergraduate students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University as of Fall, 2003, were recruited from the junior/senior level nutrition classes. Students were excluded from the study if they: 1) had a degree in environmental science, 2) had previously taken an environmental science course within the last 3 years, or 3) were currently taking an environmental science course. This process was repeated at the end of the 2004 spring semester. An incentive was provided to each subject for participation. Subjects signed an informed-consent form approved by the Bastyr University Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to participation in the study.
Environmental Knowledge Questionnaire (EKQ)
All subjects self-reported the socio-demographic, and the Environmental Knowledge Questionnaire (EKQ), developed by the investigator and consisted of 16 true/false/don't know questions. The questionnaire addressed 4 topics: global warming, GMOs, sustainable food systems, and U.S. organic standards. Some of the EKQ questions were adapted from other sources. 27,28 . The EKQ was pilot tested and validated by administering it to 11 students at Bastyr University.
Analysis of Environmental Knowledge Questionnaire (EKQ):
The EKQ was coded and analyzed by the investigator. For each question that a participant answered
Results were expressed as means ± standard deviation (SD). Significance was determined at a p< 0.05. Data was analyzed using the SPSS (version 12.0). The Mann-Whitney U Test and Fisher's Exact Test were used to compare the mean percentages correct between the groups. Based on a power analysis of 85 Percent, the sample size was determined to be 72. 17,29
Environmental Knowledge Questionnaire (EKQ)
The EKQ mean percentage of correct responses for juniors and seniors was 48, indicating low environmental knowledge. There was statistically significantly higher (p ? 0.005) environmental knowledge when comparing the overall knowledge between Juniors-Beginning (Fall, 2003) to Seniors-Ending (Spring, 2004) (Table 1).
When comparing Juniors-Beginning to Seniors-Ending, there was statistically significant improvement in knowledge in the following sections: GMOs (p < 0.027), Sustainable Food Systems (p < 0.027), and Organic Standards (p < 0.031). There was no statistically significant improvement in knowledge in regards to the Global Warming section (Table 2). Although it was not statistically significant, the subjects' knowledge in the GMOs section increased from 36 mean percentage correct at the Juniors-Beginning level to 51 mean percentage correct at the Seniors-Ending level. Regarding the Sustainable Food Systems section, the subjects' knowledge increased from 51 mean percentage correct to 78 mean percentage correct. Regarding the Organic Standards section, the subjects' knowledge increased from 40 mean percentage correct to 58 mean percentage correct (Table 2).
There was no statistical significance in the knowledge of individual questions at both class levels, Juniors-Beginning to Juniors-Ending and Seniors-Beginning to Seniors-Ending (Table 3).
This study measures and compares the environmental knowledge of junior and senior year college nutrition students in regards to: Global Warming, GMOs, Sustainable Food Systems, and U.S. Organic Standards. Overall, juniors and seniors had low environmental knowledge.
This study population was formed from a modest sample of college students. Although Juniors-Ending and Seniors-Beginning are two separate groups, there was an increase in overall environmental knowledge when comparing Juniors-Ending to Seniors-Beginning. It was beyond the scope of this study to investigate the reasons for this increase in knowledge. The results of our study may not be generalized to all college students or to another population and may require confirmation among a population of randomly selected young adults outside a university setting.
Conclusions And Implications For Research And Practice
In the present study, the combined junior and senior college nutrition students' overall environmental knowledge was low. Although overall environmental knowledge was low, there was a statistically significant increase in overall environmental knowledge when comparing juniors at the beginning of the school year with that of seniors at the end of the school year. Nutritionists have the responsibilities of educating the public on how their food choices can benefit not only their health but the health of planet. Based on our findings and other given research, more specific assessment of college nutrition students' environmental knowledge is needed and more emphasis should be placed on promoting environmental literacy in college curriculums.
This research was supported in part by Bastyr University.
SAMER KOUTOUBI, MD., PhD Associate Professor School of Nutrition and Exercise Science Bastyr University 14500 Juanita Drive, NE Kenmore, WA 98028 Tel. 425-602-3280 Fax. 425-823-6222 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org