Theses and Dissertations


Rahel Mathews

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Byrd, Sylvia H.

Committee Member

Downey, Laura Hall

Committee Member

Buys, David R.

Committee Member

Mosby, Terezie T.

Committee Member

Gerard, Patrick

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion


Mississippi leads the nation in chronic disease, obesity, poverty, and food insecurity. Preventing further growth in disease rates, requires a cultural shift towards a ‘healthy eating’ environment. Healthy patterns of food consumption along with physical activity can prevent and reduce these rates. A state-wide ‘healthy eating’ social marketing campaign could motivate voluntary population behavioral change. Three different methodologies were used to develop a strategy for Mississippi: a systematic review of the literature, a state-wide phone survey (quantitative), and focus groups (qualitative). A systematic review of articles published since January 2007 was conducted, using PRISMA guidelines. Five databases were searched with key terms. Past healthy eating campaigns in the US focused on children and parents as the target audiences and consumption of fruits and vegetables as the behavioral outcome. A web-based campaign from Oregon, was one of the successful models; in 2015, their website had over 125,000 monthly users. This campaign appeals to mothers as its primary audience and produces recipes that are tested and ‘kid-approved’; almost all the recipes include fruits and/or vegetables. The phone survey data was analyzed for participants who were responsible for children under the age of 18 in their homes. Values, attitudes, beliefs and barriers were analyzed using univariate frequencies. Chi Square tests were conducted to investigate the differences between demographic groups. The survey found that Mississippi SNAP-eligible and recipients have positive beliefs and attitudes towards ‘healthy eating.’ A majority (60%) agreed that cost was a barrier to ‘healthy eating’ while 35% thought that access to quality fruits and vegetables was lacking. Focus groups (n=17), from 12 counties were conducted with mothers, grandmothers, aunts who were caretakers of young children. Findings indicated participants had a broad range of perceptions and practices for ‘healthy eating.’ They were motivated to eat healthy for their personal health and for their children. Mothers and guardians are motivated to satisfy their children’s hunger, often a barrier to healthy eating. The findings indicate that time, convenience, and cost are also barriers. A consumer-oriented, culturally appropriate social marketing campaign in Mississippi should resonate with mothers and their need to satisfy their children.