Evaluation of a Nutrition Education and Skills Training programme in vulnerable adults who are at high risk of food insecurity.
In Australia, the prevalence of food insecurity increased by 1.5% between 2014 and 2016 and 2018 and 2020 due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. OzHarvest offers a 6-week Nutrition Education and Skills Training (NEST) programme to adults at risk of food insecurity. NEST provides 2.5-h weekly cooking workshops on simple, healthy and affordable meals. This study aimed to determine the immediate (post) and longer-term (6 months) impacts of participation in NEST. A quasi-experimental study with pre-post surveys (n = 258) and 6-month follow-up surveys (n = 20) was conducted from June 2019 to July 2022. Survey results were obtained from NEST programme participants (≥18 years) from six major Australian cities. Participants demonstrated immediate improvement in nutrition knowledge (p < 0.001), food preparation behaviours (p < 0.001) and confidence and self-efficacy (n = 222; p < 0.001). Intake of discretionary foods decreased (p < 0.001), whereas fruit, vegetable and water intake increased (p < 0.001). Food security improved from 57% to 68% immediately after the completion of the programme (p < 0.001). Participants demonstrated longer-term improvements in nutrition knowledge (p < 0.001), cooking confidence (n = 8; p = 0.03), food preparation behaviours (p = 0.003) and increased vegetable (p = 0.03) and fruit intake (p = 0.01). Participation in OzHarvest's NEST programme results in short-term improvements in food security levels and dietary behaviours. Over the longer term, these changes were sustained but to a lesser degree, indicating that systemic changes are required to address underlying socio-economic disadvantages.