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Exploring University Food Environment and On-Campus Food Purchasing Behaviors, Preferences, and Opinions

Roy, Rajshri, Soo, Danielle, Conroy, Denise, Wall, Clare R., Swinburn, Boyd
Journal of nutrition education and behavior 2019 v.51 no.7 pp. 865-875
attitudes and opinions, beverages, chi-square distribution, college students, cross-sectional studies, descriptive statistics, females, food availability, food purchasing, issues and policy, males, prices, purchasing, restaurants, surveys, taste, vending machines
Cross-sectional observation of a university food environment and a survey of food purchasing preferences, behaviors, and opinions of students and staff to formulate strategies for interventions.A modified food environment-quality index was used to assess food outlets. A cross-sectional survey with closed (n = 42) and open-ended (n = 2) questions assessing students and staff purchasing, choice determinants, and opinions about the food environment.Six campuses of 1 large urban university.Food outlets (eg, convenience stores, restaurant and café, takeout, vending machines) (n = 57). University students and staff (n = 1,954).The researchers calculated descriptive statistics and Pearson chi-square tests to compare the percentages of healthy and/or unhealthy products in high- vs low-scoring outlets. Kruskal–Wallis H test was used to determine differences in healthiness between outlet types. Pearson chi-square tests were used to examine the influence of gender, and student and staff differences in survey responses.Median food environment-quality index was 79 out of 199 (interquartile range = 7). Six food outlets were categorized as healthy and 2 as unhealthy; the rest were intermediate. Overall, healthy items were less available, accessible, and promoted and cost more than unhealthy items. The majority of respondents in the survey (79%) purchased food and beverages on campus; males consuming them more frequently than did females (P = .001) and students consumed them more frequently than did staff (P = .001). Value for money, healthfulness, and taste determined the choice. Respondents suggested increasing value for money and healthy options.Interventions that improve food availability, accessibility, prices, and promotions through policies are warranted and would be well-received among both university students and staff.