Angela Piaskoski and Alexander Wray Successfully Defend their MSc Theses

The HEAL would like to congratulate Angela Piaskoski and Alexander Wray who successfully defended their theses under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland in 2020.

Angela Piaskoski successfully defended her MSc thesis titled Experiencing rural household food insecurity: A broad examination and regional example. Angela completed her MSc in Geography under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland. During her studies, she explored the perspectives of those living in rural households, who access food banks and experience food insecurity.  

Household food insecurity is experienced by one in every eight Canadians. Food insecurity is primarily driven by low-income and often accompanied by negative physical and mental health outcomes. Across the country, food banks attempt to provide local communities with an emergency food option and have become institutionalized. In rural areas, transportation and access to affordable food can be a challenge. The experience of household food insecurity in rural settings has predominantly been left out of the literature.

This research uses data from focus groups that were carried out in Huron County, Ontario, Canada to understand this experience. Results reveal that people in rural places, who cannot afford food, rely on many different strategies and forms of assistance to get by. Food banks are a great service in these communities but could be better. These findings call for action to be taken by food banks, communities, organizations, governments, and researchers.

Signs with a Side of Fries: The influence of outdoor advertising on retail food outlet purchases by adolescents

Alexander Wray successfully defended his MSc thesis titled Signs with a Side of Fries: The Influence of outdoor advertising on retail food outlet purchases by adolescents. Alexander completed his MSc in Geography under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland. During his studies, he examined how outdoor advertising might shape purchases at fast food outlets, restaurants, grocery stores, and variety stores by teenagers in London, Ontario, Canada.

Most Canadian adolescents have diets high in fat, sodium, and free sugar. There are concerns among researchers and policymakers that food and beverage marketing has an adverse impact on adolescent dietary attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours. The food environment plays an important role in shaping diets and health. The food information environment, and more specifically outdoor food and beverage advertising, may have an effect on adolescent food and beverage purchases.

To study this, Alexander conducted a systematic review of previous studies on outdoor food and beverage advertising and findings showed no definitive link to dietary behaviours in any population. There are limited effects from a high availability of, accessibility to, or exposure to outdoor food and beverage advertising among teenagers in their home environment, with the strongest associations between fast food and variety store advertising and purchasing. Outdoor advertising around schools seems to have more of an effect on food and beverage purchasing than advertising near home or on the journey between home and school. The most important factor in purchasing for teenagers uncovered by this analysis is attitudes towards healthy eating, cooking, and packing lunch.

Overall, findings reveal that future research should focus on isolating the effects of outdoor advertising on purchasing behaviours with studies that use methods that measure exposure and engagement, rather than the accessibility or availability of advertising. All levels of government should pivot their efforts towards policies and programs that foster healthy eating behaviours, cooking skills, nutritional literacy, and equal access to healthy and nutritious food in schools rather than focusing on the regulation of food and beverage advertising.

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