To assess the impact of an experiential nutrition education program, The SPORKS for Kids program, on preschoolers’ willingness to try a novel vegetable.
Use of Theory or Research
Intervention approaches which integrate repeated taste exposure, sensory learning, and nutrition education to provide repeated exposures to novel foods in fun, positive environments (positive valence) have been successful at increasing willingness to try new foods. These approaches were coupled with Social Cognitive Theory constructs to develop The SPORKS activities.
Preschool-aged children from 2 rural Colorado communities.
The 6-week program was conducted in evenings as a complementary component to parent workshops. Children attended weekly 90-minute sessions focused on taste exposure and sensory learning via nutrition-related activities and imaginary trips/musical journeys. The SPORKS family consists of Sally Spoon (mom), Frankie Fork (dad); Buddy and Bubbles (preschoolers) and Junior and Freckles (older siblings). The SPORKS characters were embedded into activities and materials to facilitate experiential learning and build children's familiarity with the target vegetable (cauliflower). At tasting activities, 3 pieces of cauliflower were provided to each child and children were encouraged to try the food in a group setting.
Observers recorded whether each child tried the cauliflower provided during the sessions.
Sixteen children participated in the program across 2 sites. During week 1, 50% of children tried cauliflower and tries steadily increased (58%, 80%, 73%, 85%, weeks 2-5, respectively), and by week 6 this number rose to 100%. Once children tried cauliflower, they continued to try it across subsequent weeks (100%). Half of the children requested ‘seconds’ beginning in week 3.
While half of the children tried the food at the start of The SPORKS program, repeated exposure with positive valence resulted in the remaining children's willingness to try a target vegetable.