Nutrition In Transition: An Examination Of Nutritional Attitudes And Behaviors Among A Transitional Housing Population In Baltimore, Md
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentPublic Health and Policy
ProgramDoctor of Public Health
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Nutrition--Study and teaching
Mixed methods research
Baltimore City has the highest rate of homelessness in all of the counties in Maryland. On any single night in Baltimore City, 2,796 men, women, and children experience homelessness. This number has continued to rise each year since 2007. The development of transitional housing has shown promise by seeking to move homeless towards independent living. However, when homeless persons transition from living on the street to living in a transitional house, they tend to only be treated for their possible mental health, physical health, and substance abuse issues, while proper nutrition education is not offered. Nutritional data available about this population is scarce and the limited amount of data indicates that they do not meet USDA recommendation for fruits and vegetables, they have more nutritional related diseases than the general population, and improper eating habits persist even as homeless individuals secure permanent housing. These factors not only present serious barriers to this population's overall health, they also inhibit their recovery to self-reliance when they move into permanent housing. This study was formative in nature and employed a mixed methods inquiry, utilizing socioeconomic, cultural, environmental, and policy factors into the message design, evaluation, and dissemination of nutrition education sessions. In seeking to understand the nutritional attitudes and behaviors of homeless and transitional housing populations in Baltimore, Maryland, the primary goal of this research was to (1) translate knowledge to improve the nutritional health of this population, and (2) evaluate the need for and refinement of nutrition education for homeless living in transitional houses. Statistical data showed significant changes in how participants described their diet, willingness to eat a variety of fruits, willingness to going out of their way to purchase fruits and vegetables, willingness to try new vegetables, knowing how to choose fruits and vegetables in season, and knowing about vitamins found in fruits and vegetables. Focus group data uncovered that the participants became more aware of their improper eating habits, incorporated some aspect of the nutrition session into their daily lives, and wanted more in-depth and longer nutrition sessions. An understanding of this population's nutrition knowledge, practices, and needs will allow for more targeted and relevant representations of inquiry.