Academic journal article Journal of International Students

The Outcomes of the Community Cooking Workshops for International Students at Simon Fraser University

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

The Outcomes of the Community Cooking Workshops for International Students at Simon Fraser University

Article excerpt

Adjusting to the academic and social demands of a post-secondary institution can be difficult for international students (Almohanna, Conforti, Eigel, & Barbeau, 2015; Vafors Fritz, Chin, & DeMarinis, 2008). While domestic post-secondary students may be required to learn how to prepare meals for themselves, and manage their own finances, international students are required to perform these tasks in a new country with an unfamiliar language, all while adapting to foreign customs (Almohanna, Conforti, Eigel, & Barbeau, 2015; Smith & Khawaja, 2011). These added pressures can result in increased anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and depression among the international student population, who in comparison to their domestic counterparts, are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems (Almohanna, Conforti, Eigel, & Barbeau, 2015; Fritz, Chin, & DeMarinis, 2008). Given that international students are at increased levels of stress in comparison to their domestic counterparts (Almohanna, Conforti, Eigel, & Barbeau, 2015), and the implications of stress on the eating patterns of postsecondary students (Alakaam, Castellanos, Bodzio & Harrison, 2016), supporting international students' eating patterns should be of prime importance. Therefore, interventions designed to improve the nutritional practices of post-secondary international students, such as cooking workshops, should be explored.


Healthy eating patterns play a key role in the academic success of postsecondary students, yet post-secondary students consume more high-fat, high-calorie foods as compared to fruits and vegetables on a daily basis (Versaevel, 2014). The 2016 Canadian National College Health Assessment (NCHA) found that only 10% of students met the recommendations from the Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide for fruit and vegetable consumption (Versaevel, 2014). In the 2016 NCHA, 46.2% of postsecondary students reported more than average stress, and 14.4% indicated they experienced tremendous stress (ACHA, 2016). High perceived stress in post-secondary students is associated with increased snack food, carbohydrate, and sugar consumption, and decreased fruit and vegetable consumption (Alakaam, Castellanos, Bodzio & Harrison, 2016). Moreover, studies have consistently reported associations between increased "unhealthy" diets, those high in fat and processed sugar, with increased diagnoses of depression and anxiety disorders (Dietitians of Canada, 2012).

Post-secondary institutions can provide an optimal setting for health education. For international students in a new environment, the post- secondary setting may be one of the first places they acquaint themselves with upon arrival and therefore, is a key context for accessing health information. Using the post-secondary environment to facilitate nutrition interventions could provide an opportunity for international students to receive accurate nutrition and health information and serve as a first point of contact to connect students with other on-campus health and non-health related resources. By providing international students with tools and information to improve their nutrition knowledge and cooking self-efficacy, this may encourage international students to cook for themselves and avoid commercially prepared meals, thereby improving their diet quality (Thorpe, Kestin, Riddell, Keast & McNaughton, 2013).

Interventions for Improving Nutritional Practices Among PostSecondary Students

A review of recent literature on post-secondary nutrition interventions provides four nutrition interventions targeted at improving the nutritional practices of post-secondary students: cooking shows, cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, and dinner groups (Ball & Brown, 2012; Clifford, Anderson, Auld & Champ, 2009; Lawe, 2013; Levy & Auld, 2004).

Clifford, Anderson, Auld and Champ (2009), assessed the outcomes of a randomized control trial Social Cognitive Theory based cooking show for post-secondary students. …

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