Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Nutritional Sciences

Major Professor

Sarah Colby

Committee Members

Wenjun Zhou, Elizabeth Anderson Steeves, Chad Hellwinckel


Background: Most college students do not meet dietary recommendations; yet they are in a critical period of life for developing healthful diet habits. This population is prone to optimism bias, believing they are at lower risk of developing a diet-related disease than others, which may lead to college students consuming poor diets. One strategy to promote healthful diets may be to educate students about the negative impacts of the current food system on the environment and public health; thus students may change diet behaviors to help shift demand for more a sustainable food system. Methods: A sustainable food systems curriculum was developed using evidence-based pedagogical strategies, formative research, expert input, and evaluation. To assess changes in food systems knowledge and attitudes among students taking part in the developed curriculum, a survey tool was developed using content and face validity, item analysis, factor analysis, test-retest reliability, and criterion validity methods. A quasi-experimental, pre-post design was used to pilot the curriculum with first year college students (n = 12 in a sustainable food systems course and n = 13 in a control group). Process evaluation included reach, fidelity, and dose delivered and received. Outcome evaluation included diet quality measures and food system knowledge and attitudes. Results: A 12-week sustainable food systems curriculum was successfully developed and included experiential learning, critical reflection, guest lecturers, and an advocacy project. A validated 22-item food systems survey was developed and determined to be valid and reliable. Process evaluation measures of the pilot revealed reach and dose were high, and fidelity assessment revealed the curriculum was implemented as intended; however, there were no significant changes in diet quality, food systems knowledge, or food systems attitudes between control and treatment groups. Conclusion: The sustainable food systems curriculum was well-developed, and the survey to assess food systems knowledge and attitudes was validated for use in the college population. There were no significant differences found in changes in diet quality, food systems knowledge, or food systems attitudes. Future research should focus on expanding the curriculum to include the recommended improvements and assessing long-term impacts of participating in this course.

Available for download on Saturday, May 15, 2027

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