Nutrition and Dietetics
Vadiveloo, Maya K
Nutrition and Food Sciences
Nutrition; Food environment; College Dining
University dining halls are understudied food environments that affect student diet quality. This study (1) assessed dining hall offerings at the University of Rhode Island (URI) using the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Healthier Campus Initiative (PAHA) criteria for healthier campus food environments and (2) evaluated student perceptions of the dining hall through a campus-wide survey (n=165). We evaluated breakfast, lunch, and dinner using spring cycle menus (16 weeks in 2019 and 4 in 2021) from two full-service dining halls totaling 29 meals in 2019, and 84 meals in 2021 to determine adherence with PAHA criteria for availability of: 1) wellness meals (i.e., including whole grains, lean protein, lowfat dairy, fruits and vegetables), 2) ≥5 fruits, ≥5 vegetables, and ≥2 100% whole grains, 3) ≤4 fried foods at a time, 4) ≥3 desserts with <150 kcals, labelled as healthier 5) healthier food identification at point of presentation, and 6) marketing strategies promoting healthy options. “All-day” menus (ADM) were also included to evaluate static items available. Spring 2019 and spring 2021 cycle menus consistently met PAHA criteria #3 for fried foods, but 0% of cycle menus met the other 5 criteria. In both 2019 and 2021, criteria 1&2 were met when the ADM was included, due to the inclusion of salad and deli items. Survey results, reported using Likert scales, revealed that students somewhat or strongly agreed that it was easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables in the dining hall (74%), low-fat products (38%), and whole grains (38%), low-sugar beverages (34%) and signage (24%) within the dining halls marketing healthy foods. Taken together, dining halls at URI did not adhere to most PAHA criteria; labeling and promoting healthier foods at point-of-purchase through signage may be good initial steps to enhance adherence to PAHA criteria.
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