Graduate Program

Nutrition and Dietetics

Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Author's Department

Family and Consumer Sciences

First Advisor

Melanie Tracy Burns

Abstract

Objective: Consuming a nutritionally adequate diet is extremely challenging for the homeless population. Though meals are available to the homeless population through soup kitchens and homeless shelters, these settings often do not serve meals that provide essential nutrients. The consumption of energy-dense, low-nutrient foods has led in part to high prevalence of obesity, heart disease, and chronic illnesses among the homeless. The purpose of this study was to (a) examine the challenges that homeless shelters face in providing nutritious meals to guests and (b) investigate the need and interest of nutrition education at homeless shelters.

Methods: Nine homeless shelter directors completed an anonymous online researcher-developed survey designed to examine the challenges that homeless shelters face in providing nutritious meals to guests and investigate the need and interest of nutrition education at homeless shelters.

Results: The most prevalent barriers to nutritious meals at homeless shelters were limited financial resources and limited availability of nutritious foods. The factor given the highest priority when planning meals was the foods available for preparation. None of the homeless shelters surveyed utilized a Registered Dietitian in meal planning or preparation processes, but over half of the homeless shelters indicated some interest in nutrition education for those preparing meals. When asked to prioritize nutrition education topics for this group, the topics of food safety and sanitation and safe food access were given the highest priority.

Conclusions: This study indicated that many factors interact when meals are planned at homeless shelters and that nutrition education is absent in the majority of shelters. There is potential for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to have a positive influence on the nutritional adequacy of meals served at homeless shelters. Further research is needed on this topic.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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