Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Committee Chair

Kathy Yadrick

Committee Chair Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 2

Carol Connell

Committee Member 2 Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 3

Denise Brown

Committee Member 3 Department

Nutrition and Food Systems

Committee Member 4

Charkarra Anderson-Lewis

Committee Member 4 Department

Community Health Sciences


Patterns of weight gain and poor diets in young adulthood, along with associations between cooking involvement, frequency, and skills and improved dietary intake, suggest that exploration of cooking knowledge, attitudes, and behavior among college students is warranted. This research employed a concurrent parallel mixed methods design and a social cognitive theory framework to study cooking perceptions among college students at a public university in a southern state with obesity rates among the highest in the U.S.

Survey respondents (N=159) scored 9.3+1.1/10 on cooking knowledge, and mean ratings on SCT-related cooking constructs were 39.2+7.4/48 (skill); 8.1+3.2, 9.3+3.4, and 10.1+4.2 out of 18 (willingness to invest time, physical effort, and mental effort, respectively); 32.5+6.9/42 (outcome expectations); 21.7+4.0/36 (attitudes, expectancies, expectations); and 15.7+3.0/20 (confidence). In the SCT construct model (F=5.417, R2=.225), only cooking skill was a significant predictor of cooking behavior, whereas in the model that also included demographics (F=5.062, R2=.613), no SCT constructs were significant and living off-campus was the strongest predictor (p

Several themes emerging from focus groups (N=15) suggested approaches that universities might take within the context of wellness programming to encourage healthy eating. Most respondents lacked basic culinary skills, suggesting cooking programs or classes start with the basics. Benefits of cooking identified in both study components could be used in developing and promoting cooking classes. Cooking providing control over what is eaten was most strongly affirmed, and health benefits, desirable social experiences, and opportunities for creativity were other outcome expectations. Outcome expectancies relevant to choosing to cook included the desire to save time and effort in light of other priorities while in school, and cooking as a life skill needed to live on their own. Lack of facilities/equipment in their campus living situation was seen as a barrier to cooking, and media sources like cooking videos and cable television programs provided opportunities for observational learning that could be easily accessed. With many students not acquiring skills in their homes growing up, an inclusion of cooking classes and resources as part of university wellness programming may help young adults develop a life skill important for healthy food consumption.