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Addressing Food Insecurity Experienced by Elementary School Students Through a Weekend Backpack Program

Mussington, Marlon (2023) Addressing Food Insecurity Experienced by Elementary School Students Through a Weekend Backpack Program. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Food insecurity is a problem for millions of people in the United States. In 2020, 10.5 percent of US households were food insecure, and for people of color, the numbers were even greater. With the United States’ history of discrimination against Black and Brown people in areas such as housing, employment, and education, racism is clearly a root cause of the problem. The theory of improvement for this dissertation in practice hypothesizes that increased access to free and nutritious foods will improve the physical, social, and academic outcomes of our students. To address this problem of practice, I implemented a supplemental weekend program that provided backpacks filled with nonperishable food items to students impacted by food insecurity. The inquiry questions that guided this improvement project were: 1) How do parents view the backpack program’s impact on their child(ren) and family?, 2) What are the teachers' perceptions of the impact of the weekend backpack program on their students?, and 3) How does the overall school environment help or hinder students to eat healthy? Measures include phone surveys/interviews with 7 parents of students participating in the backpack program, 2 focus groups with 8-12 faculty/staff that work with students receiving backpacks, and field notes to document the school food environment. Quantitative (survey) data analysis includes descriptive statistics and qualitative coding of open-ended questions. Focus group recordings were transcribed and coded with qualitative content analysis and organized into categories and themes. An analysis of field notes includes a qualitative description of observations and findings. Results of qualitative analysis of focus group transcripts revealed 3 overarching themes surrounding teachers' perceptions of the impact of the weekend backpack program on the lives of their students: (1) Household struggles illuminated and exacerbated by a pandemic; (2) School meeting the needs of its students; and (3) Increasing food access for students and families. Main findings reflected challenges to accessing public services and, school resources helping to mitigate the issue of food insecurity for students and families. The implementation of this program highlight the importance of the program and the role schools can play in the communities they serve.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mussington, MarlonMJM375@pitt.eduMJM375
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberRoss, Sharonseross@pitt.eduseross
Committee MemberPerry, Jilljperry@pitt.edujperry
Committee ChairFarmer, Thomastfarmer@pitt.edufarmer
Date: 11 January 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 November 2022
Approval Date: 11 January 2023
Submission Date: 2 December 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 85
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Health and Physical Activity
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Weekend Backpack Program, Food Insecurity
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2023 19:28
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2023 19:28


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