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P022 A Qualitative Study on the Impact of COVID-19 on Dietary Behaviors in College Students

      Background

      Prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), many college students reported unhealthy dietary patterns, including low fruit and vegetable consumption and high intakes of processed foods. The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic in March 2020, resulting in universities closing. Students adopted new routines due to the stay-at-home orders, which resulted in changes in dietary behaviors.

      Objective

      This study sought to explore the impact of COVID-19 on college students’ dietary behaviors.

      Study Design/Settings/Participants

      This qualitative study utilized a total of 12 individual interviews, which were conducted with college students at a university in the southeastern region of the United States.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Changes in dietary habits were identified through content analysis.

      Results

      College students in quarantine experienced both positive and negative changes in dietary habits. Negative impacts resulting from isolation included increased unhealthy food choices and increased boredom snacking. External factors also played a role in dietary habits, due to lack of availability of healthy and fresh grocery items, which stemmed from limited grocery store access, fewer trips, and supply shortages. However, quarantine also led to positive dietary changes as well. Many individuals increased their consumption of home-cooked meals, due to increased time to cook, resulting in reduced consumption of fast food. They also had increased control over food choices due to cooking.

      Conclusions

      Information gathered about students’ experiences during quarantine can be utilized to create targeted nutrition education focusing on coping mechanisms to decrease unhealthy food consumption and utilization of frozen and canned foods in healthy recipes.

      Funding

      None

      SUPPLEMENTARY DATA

      Supplementary data related to this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2022.04.062.

      Appendix. SUPPLEMENTARY DATA