A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Rural College Students’ Experiences with Ethnic Foods Direct Original Research

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Maria Kalantzis
Emma Studer-Perez
Lauren Dial
Cjersti Jensen
Dara Musher-Eizenman


food neophobia, ethnic foods, rural college students


Introduction: While research about multiculturalism has been conducted in urban institutions, little is known about students from predominately white institutions (PWIs) experiences with multicultural opportunities, such as experiences with ethnic foods. This study aimed to qualitatively capture rural college students’ salient experiences with ethnic food.

Methods:  College students were asked to respond to two open-ended questions regarding a salient experience with an ethnic food, as well as how their ethnicity plays a role in their food choices. Responses to these questions were analyzed using inductive content analysis. Initial codes were created by two authors separately and then compared to assess for congruency.

Results: Three themes were identified from students’ responses. First, students often described the authenticity of their ethnic food experiences, which were defined as experiences that were undisputedly created, marketed, or sold by members of that ethnicity/culture. Secondly, most students clearly conveyed affect when describing their experiences as either positive or negative. Finally, most students specifically mentioned the ethnicity or culture that was associated with the food experience.

Conclusions: Overall, most students described authentic and positive ethnic food experiences. This study provides qualitative insight into how one’s homogeneous background/educational environment can impact perceptions and experiences with ethnic foods.

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