180633 Rural restaurant healthy options program: A simple intervention to improve dietary intake

Monday, October 27, 2008

Faryle Nothwehr, PhD, MPH , Department of Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Linda G. Snetselaar, PhD, RD , Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Jeffrey D. Dawson, ScD , Department of Biostatistics, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Christine Hradek, MPH , Iowa Nutrition Network, Iowa Department of Public Health, Des Moines, IA
Marisol Sepulveda , Department of Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Restaurants present a possible venue to improve the availability of healthy food choices in the environment. In owner-operated rural restaurants, owners are hesitant to make significant menu changes because of their small profit margin and fear of losing customers. A low-cost, low-risk intervention was tested in three rural restaurants in the Midwest. A baseline customer survey (n=250) indicated strong interest in having healthy options available such as fish or meat that is baked or broiled, whole wheat bread, and fruit or vegetable side dishes. Women were more likely than men to express interest in healthy options as were older adults. Table tents and window signs were placed in the restaurants advertising healthy options that owners were willing to provide. A follow-up customer survey (n=264) indicated a significant positive change (p=.02) in the perceptions of the availability of healthy options in the restaurants. In addition, 39% of customers stated that they noticed the window signs, and 64% noticed the table tents. Of those who noticed at least one of these, 34% stated that it had influenced their food order. Process measures showed that the table tents and signs remained in place over at least several months time. Owners stated that the program enhanced their relationship with their customers, and caused them to consider offering additional healthy options in the future. This simple, low-cost intervention had a small but positive effect on customer perceptions and behavior. Long term evaluation of the intervention and plans for dissemination of the program are underway.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the healthy options that most appealed to rural restaurant customers surveyed. 2. Describe the impact of a simple informational intervention on customer perceptions and behavior.

Keywords: Community Programs, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI of the study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.