Research Assistant at University of Minnesota, Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute
If you measure it, better understanding will come. At least that’s the approach Robin Schow, Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute (HFHL), is taking with HFHL’s two-year food skills assessment study.
Funded by a Cargill Foundation grant, the study seeks to establish a food skills baseline to help identify and measure food skills gaps in our local communities.
“Our end goal is to come away with a tool to assess food skills,” said Robin. “There’s a lot of programming out there that purport food skills lead to better health, but no one really knows how or where the change occurs. That’s why we need validated, survey tools to know if a program is effective.”
First step? Create a working group of food skills experts—academics, government officials, and community organizations—to develop a food skills measurement tool.
“Our working group is made up of 16 or so people outside of HFHL who are passionate about finding out how food skills actually impact health. Over the next year, we’re going to determine the skills that are important and figure out what to measure and how to measure them,” Robin explained.
The second step will be to validate the survey tool in a pilot study to determine its dependability and need for further revisions. The group plans to publish pilot study findings with a goal to affect food skills programming, and ultimately—close the food skills gap.
Healthy food skills, healthy choices
This all matters because when people—especially children—are equipped with healthy food skills, they are more likely to make healthy food choices.
“This research is intended to help organizations with their food skills programming and to make a case for their programs, to contribute to the overall body of knowledge on food skills, and to help provide a foundation for stronger advocacy,” Robin said. “In the end, a better understanding of how various food skills programs impact children and youth can help organizations build evidence for their work and increase the significance and urgency of their programs.”