A $500,000 federal grant is fueling a three-year research study at Fresno State that seeks to determine whether to encourage students to consume more fresh fruit and vegetables will decrease their food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease.
The grant was one of 43 awarded nationwide by the US Department of Agriculture through its Produce Prescription Program. The USDA on Tuesday announced an investment of $59.4 million to support the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program’s (GusNIP) Produce Prescription and Nutrition Incentive programs that are designed to encourage families and individuals to eat more healthily by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The local study is being led by Dr. Shabnam Pooya, a Fresno State assistant professor of family food science. Pooya did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking further comment.
Food Insecurity Among Students
According to the study’s synopsis, approximately one of every two Fresno State students suffers from food insecurity. People with higher rates of food insecurity typically eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables, the synopsis reported.
The study will focus on providing a comprehensive nutrition intervention program that includes:
- Guided grocery store tours focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Ongoing nutrition education sessions supporting the information provided during the guided grocery store tours.
- “Nutrition prescriptions,” a suggested strategy to increase consumption of healthy foods including fruits and vegetables and decrease consumption of unhealthy foods, especially saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and added sugar, and “incentive boxes” also will support what students learn in the grocery store tours and nutritional educational programs.
- Genetic tests for non-alcoholic fatty liver, obesity, and type 2 diabetes to investigate genetic variations that may be associated with diseases.
The study will provide an opportunity for the student participants to identify existing diet-related health problems, improve their self-awareness and knowledge of nutrition, and ultimately lead to a decrease in medical care costs while improving their health prospects.
The study’s objectives include participants eating one more daily serving of fruits and vegetables measured by their HealthWatch 360 score by the program’s end. HealthWatch 360 is a mobile app through which students will report their diet, lifestyle, and health data, which will be accessible to researchers for the study. The platform is HIPPA-compliant, which means that students’ health information will remain confidential.
By the end of the study, the participants should be able to select fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamins and fiber, and also be able to demonstrate how they cook with those healthy foods.