Online Program

Assessing food preferences and consumption patterns in the school cafeteria using multiple methods

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 12:42 p.m. - 12:54 p.m.

Rebekah Rodericks, MSPH, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Stephanie Lee, MPH, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Hyun-Hee Heo, MA, Department of Public Health Sciences, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Francine Naputi, BA, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Thomas Lee, BA, Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Jennifer Ryan, MPH, Healthy Hawaii Initiative, State of Hawaii Department of Health, Honolulu, HI
Glenna Owens, School Food Services Branch, Hawaii Department of Education, Honolulu
Ann Horiuchi, Hawaii Department of Education, Honolulu, HI
Jay Maddock, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawai'i Manoa, Honolulu, HI
BACKGROUND: As part of the Healthy Hawaii Initiative Model Schools Program, one pilot school is focusing on enhancing the quality of its nutrition education program over a three-year period. PURPOSE: To identify what foods elementary students selected in the cafeteria and to assess the amount of plate waste. SIGNIFICANCE: The school food environment is an important setting to address childhood nutrition. Results will be used to evaluate the impact of the nutrition intervention on students' food choices and eating habits. METHODOLOGY: Three methods were used to analyze food preferences and consumption patterns on two random days in 2012: observations using handheld counters, plate waste using digital scales, and photographs of lunch trays after consumption. A total of 683 trays were evaluated at baseline. Follow-up data will be collected in early 2013. RESULTS: Most students selected fruit (83.9%) and bread (81.5%), and all students selected the entrée (100%). Vegetables were selected the least, although more students chose vegetables on Day 2 (corn/green beans–59.7%) than on Day 1 (salad–53.2%). A similar amount of students selected chocolate milk (51%) and unflavored white milk (49%). When assessing plate waste, 49.6% of food (161 grams) was discarded from each tray. Students also consumed more of the entrée and fruit than vegetables or bread. CONCLUSION: More than half of the students selected fruits and vegetables when given the option, but students also discarded approximately half of the food on their tray. Even though healthy options are served in cafeterias, students are not necessarily consuming this food.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Discuss if the use of photography, direct observation, and digital scales are effective, low-cost, and easy-to-implement methods for measuring food selection and plate waste among students. Determine the amount of plate waste on school lunch trays on an average day. Identify what food items students select when given the option at lunch time.

Keyword(s): School Health, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My academic and research interests include smoking cessation and the promotion of physical activity and nutrition. In my current position as school evaluation coordinator, I work in partnership with the State Department of Health and Department of Education. I also serve as principal investigator for 5 state and federally funded public health contracts. In the past 5 years, I have contributed to seven presentations at local and national conferences (including APHA last year).
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.