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Evaluation of a social marketing approach to healthy, home-cooked family meals for low-income mothers of young children


Tietyen Mullins, J.; Walters, J.; Najor, J.; Mikuška, J.; Courtney, A.; Norman-Burgdolf, H.


Cooking is a complex behavior associated with more frequent and nutrient-dense family meals. The Cook Together, Eat Together (CTET) social marketing program used formative, process, and outcome evaluations over a 3-year period to design a program to increase fruit and vegetable intake and frequency of family meals. We used a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods design with a nonequivalent comparison group to evaluate fruit and vegetable intake and family meals. Eight focus groups of mothers in low-income families with young children revealed two predominant behavioral mediators: (i) importance of family time and (ii) desire for children to learn to cook and become self-sufficient adults. Program design was grounded in formative evaluation and organized by the four Ps of social marketing: (i) product-learning to prepare healthy meals while teaching children to cook; (ii) price-lowered by reducing barriers of food cost, kitchen clean-up, meal planning, grocery shopping; (iii) placement-in neighborhood gathering places with a "cooking social"; and (iv) promotion-flyers, newsletters, and social media. Outcome indicators were assessed pre/post intervention with questions from instruments validated for the audience. Significant changes (n = 68, p ≥. 002, Bonferroni adjustment for p =. 05, Cohen's d =. 50 medium effect size) were found in consumption of fruits and vegetables with an average increase of half cup each per day. CTET participation significantly increased fruits and vegetables served and eaten at family meals. A social marketing approach can help families with young children increase fruit and vegetable consumption. © 2021 Society of Behavioral Medicine 2021. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: