WIC provides nutrition education and support during critical periods of growth and development to participants. However, little has been reported on WIC participants’ existing awareness of food sustainability issues.
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around food sustainability on the adoption of three new behaviors; willingness to increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, increase breastfeeding initiation and duration and reduce food waste to maximize food dollar.
Study Design, Settings, and Participants
A cross-sectional design included three online surveys. WIC participants completed surveys at the end of lessons delivered through wichealth.org, a well established parent-child feeding behavior intervention used by WIC agencies in 32 states. Participants from seven wichealth.org partner states self-selected completion of the breastfeeding (n = 612), or two food waste (n = 1,178 and n = 773) surveys.
Surveys were comprised of binary or nominal and Likert scale items. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis.
Breastfeeding survey respondents were twice as likely to agree sustainability knowledge would impact breastfeeding choices. More than half (53%) of food waste survey respondents believed food waste is a problem for most households, with big portion sizes the most often answered (30%) reason for food waste. Respondents estimated 80% of food waste is thrown away, with leftovers more than twice as likely than fruits and vegetables to be thrown away. Only 12% correctly estimated the monetary value of food waste, while 80% underestimated the national average. Finally, 71% of respondents were interested in decreasing food waste.
Findings show a need for providing online knowledge, tools and skills for food sustainability, which may influence WIC participant behaviors surrounding healthy food supplies. Practical applications include incorporating food sustainability concepts and behavior into WIC nutrition education, especially participants using wichealth.org, as a well as further research.