Food Insecurity Experience: Building Empathy in Future Food and Nutrition Professionals
Harmon, Alison H.
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OBJECTIVE To assess changes in empathy in students completing a food insecurity experience. DESIGN Mixed methods; quantitative data from survey in years 1 and 2; qualitative data extracted from students\' workbooks in years 2-5. This study was conducted over 10 weeks annually for 5 years. SETTING Northwest US land-grant university. PARTICIPANTS Students enrolled in a community nutrition course who chose to complete the food insecurity exercise. Total included 58 students in quantitative analysis in years 1 and 2 and 119 in qualitative analysis, years 2-5. INTERVENTION(S) The intervention was a food insecurity experience in which participants spent no more than $3/d on food for 5 days ($15 total) while striving for a nutritious diet and reflecting on their experience. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Empathy scores measured by Likert scales; participant responses and reflections recorded in workbook journals. ANALYSIS Comparison of means across time using paired t tests (P < .05); coding and sorting themes from workbook journals. RESULTS Quantitative findings indicated that both classroom content and experiential exercises were important for enhancing empathy about food insecurity. Empathy scores increased from time I to time II and from time I to time III. Qualitative reflections among participants included terms such as guilt, empathy, compassion, and raised consciousness about food insecurity. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Experiential and transformational learning to develop empathy can take place in a 5-day food insecurity experience during a typical university-level community nutrition course. This intervention can be tested for applications in other contexts.
Harmon, Alison, Kara Landolfi, Carmen Byker Shanks, Leanna Hansen, Laura Iverson, and Melody Anacker. "Food Insecurity Experience: Building Empathy in Future Food and Nutrition Professionals." Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 49, no. 3 (March 2017): 218-227.e1. DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.10.023.