Adolescent Food Choices: A Two City Comparison Cape Town and the Bronx

Monday, 9 November 2015: 10:00 AM

Eleanor T. Campbell, EdD, MEd, MA, BS, RN
Department of Nursing, Lehman College, City University of New York, Bronx, NY, USA
Natasha Nurse, RN, CNS
Lehman College, CUNY, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Adolescent Food Choices: A Two City Comparison

Cape Town and the Bronx


            A mixed method design including survey questionnaires and focus group interviews was used to gather information about the daily food choices and factors influencing food choices among a cross-section of adolescent youths from seven schools in Cape Town, South Africa and two faith-based youth programs in the Bronx, New York.  The purpose of this study was to compare responses between the schools and the two international cities in order to shed light on the global impact of food choices on childhood obesity rates.

            Findings showed no significant differences in healthy food choices among subjects regardless of income level.  However for unhealthy food choices, there were significant differences between adolescents from low and middle socioeconomic levels.  Interview data indicated money, convenience of location, and parents as contributing to adolescents’ unhealthy food choices.  Low income students selected more unhealthy foods as a substitute for lunch while middle income adolescents purchased more unhealthy foods after school and on week-ends with families.

Barriers to healthy food choices at school were identified as: social stigma and lack of variety in school food menus. Powerlessness to initiate the process to effect changes in school lunch menu options was also identified.

            The results of this study will add to the research on childhood obesity as it helps to explain the food choice patterns among adolescents in Cape Town, New York, and similar urban environments, and identifies areas for international community collaboration to improve food health literacy and food health policies.