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Abstract

ABSTRACT Obesity is an epidemic in this country with childhood obesity rates continuing to increase over the past several decades.  Research has demonstrated that many groups living in or near poverty are the most vulnerable to becoming obese and, in turn, other diet related health outcomes.  This paper aims to explore one particular relationship, that of nutritional health literacy and food choice as it relates to and is influenced by elements of a given community among children from majority low income neighborhoods.  Prior research has shown the threats of the obesogenic environment many children live in, where environmental, cultural, and social factors can make the risk of obesity extremely high. Recent research into the relationships between obesity and health literacy and poverty and health literacy among children and adolescents have demonstrated negative correlations with regard to both, pointing towards the influence of nutritional health literacy specifically, or what individuals know about healthy eating and food choices, as a critical aspect of the relationship between poverty and juvenile obesity and weight related health issues.    Through survey data, ethnographic research, and population data, this research explored the differences in health literacy and food choice among children from neighborhoods with high levels of poverty, but diverse sets of resources and cultures.  Through this data, I isolated several community level influences on nutritional health literacy and food choice. In addition, I found that in order to improve both health literacy and food choice issues of access, education and exposure must be addressed, which would likely result in vastly different programs and policies throughout communities, even  within communities with similar economic make up.

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