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Hanley Sustainability Institute

UD student research exploring sustainable eating practices in Hispanic populations

By Mark Gokavi

Note: This the first in a three-part series on summer 2021 undergrad research funded by the Hanley Sustainability Institute.

University of Dayton student Mary Claire Atkinson is researching the Latino/Latina/Hispanic population’s relation to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and cultural dietary customs.

Atkinson, a senior dietetics major and Spanish minor under the direction of assistant professor Diana Cuy Castellanos, is working on a narrative review examining the idea of a sustainable diet.

“Throughout the past year, I have worked to develop a greater understanding of the Latinx population’s diet and their nutrition transition that comes with migration to the United States,” Atkinson said. “I have been researching the diets of the Latinx population pre- and post-migration to the United States and how certain shifts affect both their health and the health of our environment. It has been fascinating to discover how much human health and environmental health coincide and how diets that benefit the environment often benefit human health as well.”

Atkinson’s project explores the perception of sustainable eating within a population where there is high meat consumption tied to various factors and to find a way to identify and address barriers to better eating.

“Based on the research, definitions of sustainable and unsustainable eating were developed before diving into the Latinx population,” Atkinson said. “The review also covers several other topics related to sustainable eating: sustainable eating and health, sustainable eating and the environment, sustainable/unsustainable eating and Latinx, barriers to sustainable eating, and facilitators to sustainable eating.”

She intends to inform future interventions promoting sustainable eating in a culturally-appropriate manner. Another aim is to examine appropriate messaging about tap vs bottled water usage due to the perception that tap water is not "healthy" or "contaminated.”

“This project has given me the opportunity to connect this research to sustainability, and understand what this ultimately means for our planet,” Atkinson said. “It is hoped that the narrative review will be published in the journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.”

For more sustainability news and information, visit HSI’s news blog, the Hanley Sustainability Institute website and the sustainability program website. To sign up for HSI’s Sustainability Spotlight newsletter, register here.

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