Virtual reality grocery store tour: Impact on nutrition literacy and self-efficacy

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Pilut, Jennifer
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Litchfield, Ruth
Lanningham-Foster, Lorraine
Hollis , James
Pitchford, Edward
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Food Science and Human Nutrition
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited in-person nutrition education programs and many have been adapted for virtual learning delivery. Fortunately, previous research suggests online nutrition education programs improve nutrition knowledge, increase self-efficacy, and increase healthy behavior changes similar to in-person programs. Virtual Reality (VR) provides a new educational strategy for virtual nutrition education. Get Cooking: A Virtual Culinary Experience is a four-week worksite wellness nutrition education program designed to improve basic cooking skills, nutrition literacy, and healthful food purchasing self-efficacy. The program utilized the learning management system, Canvas, to deliver content and track attendance. Study participants were Iowa State University employees recruited through the Wellness Adventure2 program. Participants completed either a computer-based virtual reality grocery store tour (CBVR) or a virtual PowerPoint® grocery store tour (PP) as part of the Get Cooking program. Both interventions contained the same information, only differing in the mode of delivery. The goal of this study was to examine nutrition literacy and self-efficacy for purchasing healthy foods among Get Cooking participants. Online surveys were completed prior to the program, immediately upon completing the program, and three months from the start of the program. Participants who completed at least three weeks, of Get Cooking, including the grocery store tour and all surveys were included in the final data analysis (n=36; CBVR n=17 and PP n=19). Both CBVR and PP participants significantly increased healthful food purchasing self-efficacy between pre- to post-surveys (p=0.000) and pre- to three-month post-surveys (p=0.000). There was no significant difference in self-efficacy or nutrition literacy between the CBVR and PP participants at any time point. A trend (p=0.08) between age and post-self-efficacy scores was observed with a younger population (30-39) gaining more self-efficacy than an older population (40-49). High attrition rates were noted for both CBVR (52.7%) and PP (47.2%) groups which is consistent with previous in-person programs. In summary, CBVR presents a new technology for virtual nutrition education. Current findings suggest CBVR technology is as effective as a virtually delivered PP presentation in improving healthful food purchasing self-efficacy.
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