Public Health Nutrition

Marketing and Communication

Challenges to parent nutrition education: a qualitative study of parents of urban children attending low-income schools

Wendelin Slussera1a2 p1 c1, Michael Prelipa1, Janni Kinslera1, Jennifer Toller Erausquina3, Chan Thaia4 and Charlotte Neumanna1

a1 Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

a2 Department of Pediatrics, Mattel Children's Hospital, School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

a3 Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

a4 Department of Communication, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA


Objective The present study was undertaken to learn more about parents’ (i) knowledge regarding healthy foods, factors associated with food purchasing and preparation, and current nutrition education resources, (ii) barriers to and promoters for establishing healthy eating habits for children and families, and (iii) interest in participating in nutrition interventions.

Design Focus group interviews were conducted with parents of low-income children from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

Setting LAUSD Title 1 elementary schools where 50 % or more of students are eligible for free/reduced-price meals.

Subjects Sixty-four parents (93 % female; 84 % Hispanic/Latino) of elementary-school students.

Results The most common barriers to eating healthy foods were cost, difficulty in getting children to eat healthier foods and easy access to fast food. Parents had a basic knowledge about what foods are healthy and received most of their nutrition education through the media. Parents expressed a desire for nutrition classes and almost all of them said they would attend a nutrition programme at their child's school. Topic areas of interest included what to purchase, how to cook healthier foods, how to encourage their children to eat healthier and how to read food labels. Parents also requested classes that engage the whole family, especially fathers.

Conclusions Parents in our study were interested in participating in nutrition education programmes. The information from these focus groups was used to design a parent nutrition education programme especially designed to respond to the needs of the LAUSD parents, the majority of whom are low-income and Hispanic/Latino.

(Received July 26 2010)

(Accepted February 20 2011)

(Online publication April 11 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email

p1 Correspondence address: UCLA Schools of Public Health and Medicine, Department of Community Health Sciences, 10990 Wilshire Blvd – Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA