CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

An Acquired Taste: Evolving Approaches to Nutrition Education in the United States

Callie Holtermann, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Mary Summers

Date of this Version: 26 March 2019



This thesis considers the effectiveness of three approaches to nutrition education in the United States: classroom lessons about nutrition, cooking classes, and a mandate for educators to improve the food environment. It brings interviews with eight Philadelphia-area nutrition educators into conversation with scholarly program evaluations in order to explore the impacts and outcomes of nutrition education policy change on students, educators, and communities. Especially given high rates of obesity, it is a goal of nutrition education to influence children’s behavior in a way that is conducive to healthy eating. The feedback of nutrition educators and scientific evaluations of each method support that hands-on nutrition education through cooking classes is more effective than conventional nutrition lessons at improving children’s eating behavior. Instead of devoting substantial resources to cooking programs, however, recent federal policy has promoted an abstract mandate for nutrition educators to improve the food environment in and around under-resourced schools. This mandate has strained educators, who are often neither trained nor given the authority to enact environmental change. The thesis concludes with a sketch of food education in Japan, which is built into the school system through teachers of dietetics who engage children in preparing and serving school meals. Japan’s system is a compelling model of how to integrate hands-on nutrition education with environmental change initiatives while supporting educators, rather than overtaxing them.


American Politics

Suggested Citation

Holtermann, Callie, "An Acquired Taste: Evolving Approaches to Nutrition Education in the United States" 26 March 2019. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 17 May 2019




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