Life-course events and experiences: association with fruit and vegetable consumption in 3 ethnic groups

C M Devine, W S Wolfe, E A Frongillo, C A Bisogni
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1999, 99 (3): 309-14

OBJECTIVE: To examine how life-course experiences and events are associated with current fruit and vegetable consumption in 3 ethnic groups.

DESIGN: A theoretic model developed from previous qualitative research guided the development of a telephone survey. Data were collected on fruit and vegetable consumption, sociodemographic characteristics, ethnic identity, and life-course events and experiences, including food upbringing, social roles, food skills, dietary changes for health, and practice of food traditions.

SUBJECTS/SETTING: Low- to moderate-income adults living in a northeastern US city were selected randomly from 3 ethnic groups: black (n = 201), Hispanic (n = 191), and white (n = 200).

STATISTICAL ANALYSES: Bivariate and multiple linear regression analysis of associations between life-course variables and fruit and vegetable consumption.

RESULTS: Black, Hispanic, and white respondents differed significantly in life-course experiences, family roles, socio-demographic characteristics, and place of birth. Explanatory models for fruit and vegetable consumption differed among ethnic groups and between fruits and vegetables. Among black respondents, a college education was positively associated with fruit consumption; education and family roles contributed most to differences in fruit (R2 = .16) and vegetable (R2 = .09) consumption. Among Hispanic respondents, life-course experiences such as liking fruits and vegetables in youth, making dietary changes for health, and food skills were positively associated with fruit (R2 = .25) and vegetable (R2 = .35) consumption. Among white respondents, socio-demographic characteristics, such as being married with a young child or single with no child and having a garden as an adult, were positively associated with fruit (R2 = .20) and vegetable (R2 = .22) consumption.

APPLICATIONS/CONCLUSIONS: An understanding of the determinants of food choice in different subcultural groups can be used to design effective nutrition interventions to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Experiences such as eating fresh-picked fruits and vegetables while growing up or vegetable gardening as an adult may enhance fruit and vegetable consumption among members of some ethnic groups.

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