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March 30 2011 12:00 AM

A new study by Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the first to analyze how new-media technology, including the Internet and smartphones, are changing college students' eating habits and their relationship to food. Findings indicate that individuals are more likely to have meals while sitting at the computer than at the kitchen table, and that they use social media as the main avenue to obtain recipe and nutritional information.

"I sought to investigate how the explosion of new media is changing traditional notions of meals and how this is transforming human interaction," notes Madeline Varno, a senior communications major at RIT and principle author of the study. "As opposed to their parents or grandparents, college students do not see meals as a central activity in and of itself, either for enjoyment or communication. In fact none of the respondents I interviewed even had a kitchen table."

Varno conducted an extensive survey of college students at RIT, which assessed how meals were prepared and eaten, how students interacted with others during meals and how they obtained information about nutrition, potential food choices and recipes. It also assessed the importance of meals in students' social lives.

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