(P12-009-20) Evaluation of Snack Food Environment at a Large Hispanic Serving College in South Florida Utilizing the Nutrition Environment Measurement Scale for Vending Machines (NEMS-V)
Objectives: Dietary intake is strongly associated with obesity and other chronic diseases. A critical time for developing long-standing eating habits is when adolescents transition to adulthood, leaving the family home. The college student’s food environment is an essential point of intervention for establishing healthy eating habits. Vending machines (VM) at colleges are of increased importance as many students use these often to eat between classes and when restaurants are closed at night. Snacks from VM contribute to the diet quality and intake of key nutrients in young people, and >90% of college students consume snacks daily. The objective of this study was to audit the snack food VM environment at a large Hispanic serving university in South Florida.
Methods: A snack food VM audit of the campus was conducted between June 2019 and January 2020. Utilizing the NEMS-V, all VM on campus were photographed and scored by the principal investigator. NEMS-V categorizes very unhealthy foods as those with ≥ 35% of calories from fat, > 200 calories per portion sold and > 400 mg of sodium; unhealthy snacks as < 200 calories, > 230 ≤ 400 mg sodium; and healthy snacks as < 200 calories per portion, < 35% of calories from fat, ≤ 230 mg of sodium, zero trans fats. Once individual machine scores were calculated, VM content per building and an overall campus report card were generated. Further comparisons were made to evaluate VM content and proximity to restaurants and residence halls.
Results: A total of 77 VMs, with 2600 available slots, were located and evaluated. A total of 16% were in student housing, 64% were in academic buildings, and 20% were in recreational buildings or parking garages. The average VM contained 35 slots, of which 70% were very unhealthy snacks, 11% were unhealthy snacks, and 19% were healthy snacks. Of the six residence halls on campus, five had greater than 75% very unhealthy snacks available for purchase.
Conclusions: The VM environment at this large Hispanic serving college contains predominantly very unhealthy choices from which students, faculty, and staff may choose. To date, the choice of VM content has been left to an outside contractor. The poor VM environment is a significant finding to aid in informing policy as the college itself does not have a snack food policy.
Funding Sources: Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University
Christie L. Kirchoff
Graduate Assistant Florida International University
Associate Professor Florida International University Miami, Florida