Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Sarah E. Colby

Committee Members

Katie Kavanagh, Marsha Spence


Background: A few studies have shown that art–based nutrition education (primarily in the form of theater) can increase nutrition knowledge and change behavior. Little research exists on the use of visual arts in nutrition education programs. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact on children’s nutrition knowledge, self-efficacy, and behavior, of using visual art and differing levels of intensity of art activities in nutrition education.

Methods: The study used a three-armed cluster randomized control trial design with three time points. Children ages 8-12, at 6 different summer camps in Knoxville, Tennessee, attended the My Painted Plate program. The program included six nutrition lessons, two taught per week, over six weeks. Camps were randomly assigned to one of three arms. All three arms received the same six 30 minute nutrition education lessons. After each lesson, the control arm participated in 30 minutes of art, which was unrelated to nutrition. The Standard arm participated in 30 minutes of nutrition-related art (drawing MyPlate meals on paper plates). The enhanced arm participated in 30 minutes of more intense nutrition-related art (painting MyPlate meals on ceramic plates). Assessments were conducted at baseline, post (after the six lessons), and follow-up (two weeks after the post assessments). Assessments included nutrition knowledge, self-efficacy, dietary behavior surveys, and an evening meal recall to determine dietary adherence with the MyPlate recommendations. Evening meal recalls were entered into NDSR, and all data analysis was conducted with SPSS using repeated measures ANOVA.

Results: Sixty-nine participants completed the My Painted Plate program. Those participants who received the standard and enhanced interventions had statistically significant increases in nutrition knowledge compared to controls. All participants had increases in self-efficacy, with a larger, but not statistically significant increase occurring for the enhanced participants. No changes in behavior were observed in any group.

Conclusions and Implications: Inclusion of nutrition-related visual arts with traditional nutrition education is more effective than education alone at improving nutrition knowledge and self-efficacy. Both high and low intense forms of nutrition-related art equally increase knowledge gains along with the improvements in self-efficacy experienced by all participants.

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