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An Investigation into Students' and Employees' Attitudes Towards the Provision of a Healthy Foodscape within a University Setting

Agatha Christie Coelho Martins[1], School of Tourism, Bournemouth University

 

Abstract

The current British diet is causing great national concern. Numerous factors can influence individual's eating behaviour, including the environment where food is purchased and consumed, which is known as the foodscape. Environments where meals are consumed habitually by the same people, such as in universities, can have a significant impact on individuals' overall diets; highlighting an opportunity to improve their health.

This investigation focuses upon Bournemouth University's (BU) foodscape and the impact it has on consumer's food choices and health behaviours. A total of ten interviews were conducted aiming to identify BU's students and staff approach to a healthy foodscape and evaluate whether the matter was considered within the university. It was established that the university's consumers were fairly health-conscious; however, they rarely acted upon it. Nevertheless, both staff and students believed that BU was not supportive or encouraging of healthy eating practices within their foodscape, thus making it difficult to sustain a well-balanced diet.

The study concluded that while consumers are ultimately responsible for the lifestyle behaviour they lead, the university environment has a significant opportunity to encourage healthy behaviour. A set of recommendations were formulated for BU's management team on how to positively impact consumers through a more positive foodscape.

Keywords: Health Behaviour, Lifestyle Diseases, Eating Out, Foodscape, University Environment, Bournemouth University

 

Introduction

Britain's unhealthy lifestyle is an increasing problem, one that is creating immense public concern. Overweight and obesity is believed to represent the most widespread threat to health and wellbeing in the UK, with over half of the population being either overweight or obese (Departmental of Health (DH), 2011a). Increased opportunities for eating out have become an escalating concern relating to health and wellbeing. However, it has been identified that out-of-home eating is an environment where strategies for healthy eating can be deployed and the prevalence of these diseases can be reduced (Mikkelsen, 2011: 209-216). Consequently, a number of initiatives and schemes have been considered by the UK Government, hoping to improve the health status of the nation. The Public Health Responsibility deal, for example, was designed due to the realisation that businesses can have a powerful influence on the lives of many individuals, whether as employers, through commercial actions, or through community actions (DH, 2011b). However, little focus has been directed towards the university foodscape; a 'captive' environment which can significantly impact a person's overall diet (Mikkelsen, 2011: 209-216), despite the fact that students develop long-lasting health-related behaviours at this time in their lives (Doherty et al., 2011: 217-224). This research aims to investigate the extent to which Bournemouth University's (BU) foodscape influences students and staff food choices, so recommendations can be formulated and a more positive impact can occur.

 

Food Choice And Consumption

Numerous internal and external factors can influence people's food choices, including nutritional content, accessibility, value and ethical issues (Lalor et al., 2011:753-765).The food choices made by individuals over a period of time lead to the development of food consumption behaviour and habits (Sualakamala and Huffman, 2010: 242-256). Nevertheless, inappropriate health behaviour can often have negative consequences for the individual, such as the development of what are often referred to as 'lifestyle diseases' (Daborn et al., 2005: 109-125).

 

Lifestyle Diseases

Lifestyle diseases indicate illnesses that occur as a result of individual's daily habits (Sharma and Majumdar, 2009: 109-112), consequently leading to some types of cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes; diseases associated with diet, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse (Singh and Singh, 2008: 187-225). It has been suggested that such diseases are developed in correlation with increased income; they were originally referred to as 'diseases of affluence' (Ezzati et al., 2005: 0404-0412). Numerous influential factors for obesity, such as inactive lifestyle with prolonged TV watching, are associated with westernisation and urbanisation, hence their association to these illnesses; also referred to as non-communicable diseases (NCD) (Jönsson et al., 2005: 1-7). NCDs are causing grave national concern, not only as the leading cause of mortalities but also as a factor costing the UK a considerable amount of money: up to £20 billion a year, with matters predicted to worsen (IFR, 2007; World Health Organisation, 2011). Nevertheless, it is essential to highlight that this is an issue that could be altered by healthier eating patterns and exercise. Therefore, promoting a balanced diet and encouraging people to eat healthily is a priority (Wyker and Davison, 2010: 168-177). However, it could be argued that each individual is responsible for his/her own health behaviour; hence individuals will only be affected by health promotions if they are initially willing to change and are prepared to improve their health (Bridle et al., 2005: 283-301).

In order to understand individual's ability to change, numerous models of health behaviour have been developed, most significantly the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioural Change (Bridle et al., 2005:283-301).


Transtheoretical Model

Health behaviour change has increasingly been a means of altering risky lifestyle behaviours, proving to be a cost-effective way of reducing mortality (Armitage, 2009: 195-210). As a result, psychological models have been developed to aid intervention approaches (Armitage, 2010: 264-273). The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) identifies that individuals are most likely to succeed in changing behaviour when employing strategies that are appropriate to their stage of readiness to make the change (Spencer et al., 2007: 46-73).Readiness for change can be interpreted as an individual's thoughts, feelings and internal conditions, influenced by external factors, such as the environment they live in (Kasila et al., 2003: 159-166).

The TTM theory identifies five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance (Kasila et al., 2003: 159-166), as seen in Table 1.

Pre-contemplation Where there is no intention to change within the next 6 months
Contemplation where change is intended sometime in the future (usually defined as between 1 and 6 months)
Preparation where change is intended in the immediate future (1 month) and steps are taken to help prepare for change
Action where the target behaviour has been modified for less than 6 months
Maintenance is the stage characterised by temporally robust behaviour change extending beyond 6 months

Table 1: Five stages of change (created by the author, based on source material in Bridle et al. 2005).


TTM and its stages can be utilised by adapting specific principles of change to groups of people or individuals at each stage, which should consequently encourage these individuals to succeed in adopting behavioural change (Shumaker et al., 2008: 59-67). Hence, they should in theory improve their diet and lifestyle, decreasing the chance of a NCD developing. However, as previously mentioned human behaviour is not a linear process, each individual is responsible for their own diet, and if they are not prepared to change in the first place, they will not (Bridle et al., 2005: 283-301).

However, TTM can have an increased effectiveness when individuals are able to overweigh the pros of change against the cons (Velicer et al., 1998). Therefore, for the TTM to be used to its full potential, it is important to understand the surrounding factors influencing individual's negative relationship with food, so that counteractive actions can be put in place.

 

Eating Out in the UK

In order to understand the food and health state of the nation even further, it is important to consider the eating-out factor. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) (2011a), the average person eats one in every six meal outside the home, making it a big contributor to their overall diet. Josiam and Foster (2009: 876-891) state that the food selected by individuals outside the home tends to be higher in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than that selected inside the home. Defra (2011) also found this to be a problem. It could be suggested that this is a result of people' s purchasing decisions changing when they are out; as some individuals believe eating out is their chance to indulge and not have to worry about calorie-counting, as seen in Figure 1 (GMI/Mintel, 2009).


Figure 1: Eating out attitudes towards nutritional labelling

Figure 1: Eating out attitudes towards nutritional labelling (Source; GMI/Mintel 2009. Base: 3,752 internet users aged 16+ who eat out. Reproduced with kind permission.)


However, it is important to consider that even though consumers are not overly concerned about healthy eating, they are increasingly becoming more aware. Hartwell and Symonds (2005: 113-116) support this view, by highlighting how consumers' expectations of catering outlets are changing and that they are demanding lighter and healthier options. Research has outlined that many caterers perceive the provision of healthy food as their ethical responsibility; however, others suggest that eating out is an indulgent moment and therefore health is unimportant (Hartwell and Symonds, 2005: 113-116). Accordingly, this attitude in which neither consumers nor caterers are taking responsibility may be great contributors to the rise of obesity in the UK.

Furthermore, even though what each individual consumes when dining out might ultimately be their own personal responsibility, as argued by Bridle et al. (2005: 283:301), it is still essential for the hospitality industry to realise it is vital for them to give the consumer the opportunity to make an informed nutritional decision.


Healthier Catering and Food Labelling

As mentioned previously by GMI/Mintel (2009), consumers perceive eating out as a chance to treat themselves, without having to worry about the calorific content of the food being consumed. However, other research argues that nutritional information is an increasing concern for consumers and that they certainly seek, process and put product information before food procurement (Chien-Huang et al., 2011: 1379-1392). According to Unilever (2011) almost 60 % of UK respondents who took part in the Wold Menu Report claimed they would make healthier decisions when choosing what to eat, if they were provided with the nutritional values. Alexander et al. (2010: 572-579) debate this: nutritional labelling could undeniably have an impact on health, though its effects could also be insignificant if consumers are not able to use the information successfully. Hence it is essential that caterers understand they are empowered to make the bigger change in terms of preventing the rise of obesity. Furthermore, businesses and their caterers have the opportunity to influence on everyone's lives, either as employers, through commercial actions or through community actions (DH, 2011c). This has been recognised by the UK government in the White Paper 'Healthy Lives and Healthy People', and its counterpart the Public Health Responsibility Deal (DH, 2011b).


Public Health Responsibility Deal

The Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) was designed due to the realisation that businesses can have a powerful influence on the lives of many individuals (DH, 2011b). It is believed that businesses have both the technical and marketing expertise to make healthier products and influence people's purchasing habits. With that in mind the PHRD has been established to enhance these benefits as the right eating environment can empower and support individuals in making more informed and healthier choices, helping them lead healthier lives, reducing the burden of diet related diseases (DH, 2011b). Consequently, four pledges were launched aiming to assist the public in making informed, balanced and healthier choices: food, alcohol, physical activity and health at work (Food and Drink Federation, 2012).


Foodscape

An individual's diet can be influenced by many different factors, one of them being the environment in which food is purchased and consumed. The foodscape or the food environment aspect incorporates all opportunities to procure food within a given region. It is the particular site where individuals find food they are meaning to purchase (Mikkelsen, 2011: 209-216). Environmental exposure such as availability and accessibility interrelate with other factors such as taste, familiarity, value and health to encourage food choice (Lake et al., 2010: 666-673). This has been further highlighted by Gibson (2011: 71-78), who believes that small food outlets are likely to provide considerably more shelf space to 'snack foods' when compared to the shelf space devoted to fruit and vegetables. Therefore, impacting the choices individuals make when visiting these food providers.

Furthermore, Layte et al. (2011: 881-888) and Hanibuchi et al. (2011: 1-9) claim that low income is a factor that can have an impact on a community's food environment, as it is believed poorer communities have fewer large supermarkets and more convenience stores and takeaway food outlets. This is an alarming situation, as it could potentially have a negative effect on many individuals' dietary habits. This is due to shops in poorer areas being likely to supply greater quantity of processed food, which tends to be high in saturated fat and salt, and a reduced range of fruit and vegetables than larger stores (Layte et al., 2011: 881-888).

However, Kestens et al. (2010 1094-1103) create an argument, claiming that the current obesity epidemic in industrialised and developing countries has increased due to recent changes in foodscapes: increasing exposure to food, food cues, and available calories in a world of plenty. Notwithstanding, this demonstrates that there is a clear relationship between exposure or accessibility to retail food sources and an individual's diet. Therefore, by considering this matter, it is important to reflect how in more 'captive' environments, such as hospitals, workplaces and universities, food provision can be very restrictive (Mikkelsen, 2011: 209-216). Accordingly, there may only be a limited amount of food outlets that provide consumers with healthier choices. Furthermore, in an environment of limited resources, it is crucial to prioritise health concerns, so an effective health promotion intervention can be implemented (Kernan et al., 2011: 425-445). However, this may prove particularly difficult amongst young consumers, as research demonstrates that individuals under the age of 25 are the least likely to engage in a healthy lifestyle, due to their carefree attitude (Mintel, 2006).

 

The University Environment

The fast-growing occurrence of overweight and obese young people is of great concern (Mikkelsen et al., 2005: 7-15). Research indicates that a vast number of young people do not follow the national nutritional guidelines; in fact, they consume a high quantity of fast foods, snack foods, soft drinks and less fruit and vegetables than is recommended (Al-Khamees, 2009: 499-502).


Figure 2: Levels of obesity in men and women in England - 2009

Figure 2: Levels of obesity in men and women in England - 2009 (Source; Defra 2011. Reproduced with kind permission)
[Click on image for full-size version]


From Figure 2 it is evident that the obesity rate amongst those aged 45-54 is significantly high. Weichselbaum and Buttriss (2011: 295-355) suggest that overweight and obese children are likely to have an increased risk of various health-related issues in adulthood. Consequently, it seems that in order to prevent obesity and other related health issues to continue progressing, it is essential to tackle this problem in the early stages; such as during individuals' university years.

Guagliardo et al. (2011: 90-95) believe that during their first year at university, students are likely to experience significant environmental changes, such as taking responsibility for food purchasing and preparation for the first time. Additionally, this transition towards independence leads these individuals to be less influenced by their parents' decisions and more so by their peers (Sheppard and Dennison, 1996: 345-357). Hence, as these individuals become more socially conscious, following the 'crowd' becomes increasingly important, consequently impacting their food choices (Sheppard and Dennison, 1996: 345-357).

Accordingly, these radical changes may have a negative impact for many of these students. Vella-Zarb and Elgar (2010: 321-332) support this statement by suggesting that students are likely to gain 15 lbs (6.8 kg) of weight when commencing university.

Furthermore, given the nature of the university environment, stress can be another factor impacting on these individuals' diet and health. Stressed individuals are believed to increase their food consumption, which as a result can lead to obesity and other health-related issues (Zellner et al., 2006: 789-793). Research has demonstrated this to be particularly true of university students, due to aspects such as university transition, academic demands and the newfound socialisation matrix (Kandiah et al., 2006: 118-123).

Nevertheless, stress is also likely to occur in the staff population of a university; as such, individuals are likely to be faced with work and family obligations, including financial difficulties in the currently difficult British economic situation (Mintel, 2010). Research has suggested that individuals with less disposable income are less likely to consume a well-balanced diet, as a result of such diet being perceived as more expensive; further impacting on their health (Darmon et al., 2003: 315-322; Mhurchuand Ogra, 2007). Furthermore, a lack of choice within this captive environment may also be contributing to these individuals' unhealthy lifestyles, though more research is required in this area. In the US, individuals appear to believe that lack of availability of healthy food on university campuses is a key barrier affecting their diet (House et al., 2006: 14-18).

Szymona et al. (2011: 96-103) also suggest that the environment, particularly advertising within it, is believed to have an impact on how students initiate and/or sustain unhealthy behaviours. This is due to the fact that young adults are likely to be affected by such media influence (Szymona et al., 2011: 96-103). Nevertheless it has been made apparent that universities present a unique opportunity to promote health and well-being, which consequently should help address many food and health related issues that are a current problem in the UK (Doherty et al., 2011:217-224).

However, previous literature focuses very little on the subject of foodscape within a university environment and consequently its impact on individuals' food choices and health behaviours. Therefore, it is necessary that further research is conducted to identify the extent to which this factor is influencing people's lifestyle behaviours and hence identify ways in which is can positively contribute to the nation's health status.

 

Methodology

Case Study

For the aims and objectives of this study to be met, it was necessary to conduct a detailed case study of Bournemouth University's (BU) foodscape, which allowed a more thorough analysis of the topic to take place. The food provided by BU is mainly catered by a single contract caterer; however, they are not the only food provider within BU. Table 2 shows are a few of the different food outlets.

Food Outlets Description Time of availability
Deli Marche Deli Marche offers: Pasta, Pizza and a pick and mix salad bar 11.30 - 14.30
(Term time only)
World Marche World Marche offers: Traditional breakfast or a cereal option for breakfast. During lunch time, jacket potatoes with a selection of fillings, as well as a selection of hot cooked meals 08:30 - 14:30
(Term Time) 11.30 - 14.30
(Outside term time)
Toujours Toujours offer: freshly baked baguettes, Café Direct Fairtrade coffee and pastries 08:30-15:30
(Term time only)
Amigo Retail food outlet serving a selection of pre-packaged sandwiches, hot & chilled drinks, cakes & confectionery 8.30 - 15.30
(Term time only)
Costa Cafes The Costa Cafes offer both staff and students a selection of: Costa coffee, pastries and snacks 8.30 - 19.00
(Term time- however will alter outside term time)
Student Union Shop The student union shop offers a selection of pre- packed sandwiches, chilled drinks and snacks (primarily crisps and chocolate) 8.30 - 20.00
(Term time) 11.00- 16. 00
(Outside term time)
Dylan's Bar Dylan's bar offer a selection of hot food along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages 9.00 - 00.00
Loft (Starbucks) The Loft bar offers a selection of hot food along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Additionally the Loft also offers a selection of Starbucks coffees. 9.00 - 17.00
The Retreat The Retreat is managed by The School of Tourism designated for Staff and their visitors only. The Retreat offers a choice of salads, panini, vegetarian dishes, Fairtrade and mostly locally sourced and/or produced products 12.00 - 14.00

Table 2: Food Outlets within Bournemouth University (Source; BU 2011)


When the university's food outlets were initially investigated, it became apparent that the majority of foods provided were primarily snack-based; this in itself may not be an issue, as long as healthy options are accessible to consumers. However, this was not made clear through the initial investigation; which consequently led for a more thorough analysis of BU's and the foodscape to be further investigated.


Chosen Method

As a result of this study being focused on the BU's foodscape it seemed appropriate to conduct interviews, due to the newness of the subject and its intricacy (Sirakaya-Turk et al., 2011). Semi-structured interviews (Appendix 1) allowed many respondents' perspectives to be integrated in the findings of the research, increasing the validity and relevance of the information collected (Hague et al., 2004: 124).

A total of ten individuals (five staff and five students) were selected to take part in the interviews; however, in order for a fair representation of the university to be conducted, a near equal division between different academic departments was selected.


Data Analysis

Interview recordings were firstly transcribed and reviewed, allowing the data to be filtered and divided in different categories. It was then apparent that additional interpretation of the data could be done, by identifying trends and relationships between categories, further enhancing their meaning and relevance to the research (Walliman, 2005: 308-19). The data was then organised into themes and categories, as seen in the hierarchy (Table 3).


Table 3: Tree Diagram of Findings

Table 3: Tree Diagram of Findings

 

Discussion

From the initial data analysis key elements have been identified as imperative factors necessary for the formulation of a positive foodscape; as presented in the model in Figure 3. However, each element is relative and will not impact on everyone equally. Nevertheless, this model has been created to highlight that the relevant factors are interlinked and need to be reflected upon, thus the university foodspace can positively impact individuals' health.


Figure 3: Positive Foodscape Model

Figure 3: Positive Foodscape Model


Availability

The investigation identified that food availability within BU was largely of an unhealthy nature. Consequently the lack of accessibility to healthy food products appeared to have a negative impact on the food choices made by individuals: 'At university, there isn't really much option for healthy food, so I normally just go for the quick and convenient stuff' (survey respondent). The findings of this study are consistent with a study carried out by House et al. (2006: 14-18), which emphasised poor availability of healthy food within university campuses as a key barrier impacting on individual's diets. It also became apparent from primary research that the healthy food made available to consumers such as fresh fruit, had little prevalence within the food outlets situated on campus, and were in fact being put to the side. 'They don't have fruits and things; it's kind of off to the side. It doesn't always look the nicest fruit to be fair; they always look aged, but they always have pastries' (survey respondent).

Gibson (2011:71-78) has identified that small food outlets, such as of the university, are likely to provide considerably more shelf space to 'snack food' when compared to shelf space devoted to fruit and vegetables. Consequently, individuals are constantly being faced with unhealthy food in abundance, which Kestens et al. (2010: 1094-1103) believe to be a big contributor to the obesity epidemic within industrialised and developing countries. These findings suggest that food chosen by individuals when at university are likely to be unhealthy and unfortunately are being large contributors to the person's overall diet. Henceforth, it could be proposed that the current BU food provision is having a negative impact in the overall health of the nation.

However, it needs to be considered that the problem might lie with the organisation's caterers. It can be suggested that a business's main interest is to make money; therefore, it could be argued that a reasoning behind the lack of healthy food availability within the university, is that such food does not provide them with the necessary margins to break even or to make profit (Mhurchu and Ogra, 2007). Consequently, for the university's foodscape to provide a healthier environment it might be necessary for caterers to revaluate their suppliers and food availability, so more health food products can be accessible to consumers.


Financial Cost

The primary research which was carried out revealed that financial difficulties are certainly a prominent issue for consumers concerning with their diets. It was apparent that this was especially a concern for the students who took part in the research, due to their lack of disposable income. Furthermore, the findings acknowledged that due to individuals' lack of money, they were more inclined to consume unhealthy food products, as a result of it being the cheaper alternative. 'Price at the moment, because I haven't got that much money, so I kind have to weigh it up with what is going to fill you up the most, for what I can afford to spend' (survey respondent).

Darmon et al. (2003: 315-322) have previously revealed that individuals with less disposable income are less likely to consume a well-balanced diet, as they perceive healthy food products to be more expensive (Mhurchu and Ogra, 2007). Nevertheless, it could be argued that given the circumstances, the university management team and their leading caterer have been trying to reduce this perception. However, this does not seem to have been entirely successful, as the primary research demonstrated that the food advertising and promotions within the university are unhealthy, demonstrating an opportunity for individuals to initiate or sustain unhealthy behaviours (Szymona et al., 2011: 96-103). 'They quite often have two options in the canteen, but the cheaper one, ALWAYS is the more unhealthy one. Why can't they produce healthy and cheap food?' (survey respondent).

It could also be argued that BU is making it challenging for individuals to reach their stage of readiness in order to make health behavioural changes (Spencer et al., 2007: 46-73). However, as previously stated within the literature, an individual's eating habit will only alter if they are prepared to do so (Bridle et al., 2005: 283-301). The findings highlighted that participants were in search of healthy alternatives for a low price; nevertheless, when they were presented with a low-price healthy meal for the same cost as an unhealthy alternative, they still opted for the unhealthy one. Therefore, it could be suggested that some individuals believe that eating out is their chance to indulge and not worry about health, consequently making it ever more important for BU to provide these individuals with a healthier foodscape (GMI/Mintel, 2009).


Knowledge

The investigation demonstrated that the majority of respondents did have some basic knowledge in health and nutrition. Furthermore, consumers considered themselves to be health-conscious individuals; however, health was not the core influence within their diet. 'I think you always go with what your taste buds say at the end of the day, but when it's a close call, I would maybe look at the calories' (survey respondent). It was also apparent from the research that consumers felt their basic knowledge in nutrition was enough to select a healthy meal, without further nutritional information. However, previous research has suggests that consumers would be more likely to make healthier decisions when choosing what to eat, if they were provided with nutritional values (Unilever, 2011). Therefore, this ignorance in the matter was influencing individuals to eat less nutritious food than they might have thought.

Additionally, it was also discovered that a possible reason for such behaviour was the way the nutritional information was presented. Consumers perceived it to be difficult to follow and sustain. Consequently they thought the traffic-light system would be a simpler and more efficient method, aiding consumers to make more of an informed decision in the future. 'I think if it was there it would influence me… if something is red I would just not go for it' (survey respondent).

It is clear from the primary research that BU has the opportunity to further educate its participants through the traffic-light system, simultaneously encouraging them to make health behavioural changes; as further knowledge should support and encourage these individuals to pass through the stages of the TTM.


Time Management

The primary research revealed that time restrictions created by the university environment led to changes in individuals' dietary behaviours. The workload of individuals, in particular, seemed to impact their food choices as less time was dedicated to their diet and more to their work. 'Yeah probably, seeing as at university, I think a lot of it probably reflects the amount of work I have got on' (survey respondent). It was suggested that the increase in students' workloads from their first to their final yea, correlated with an increase in their stress levels, which consequently increased their consumption of unhealthy food items. Previous research has identified that such a correlation is likely to occur amongst university students, as a result of the revolutionary changes these individuals are faced with during their years at university (Kandiah et al., 2006).

Additionally, individuals' time restrictions when at university led to convenience being an important element in their food procurement and consumption. 'If I'm teaching during lunch time, then it will have an impact in what I have for lunch'; 'I eat on the run all the time here, because we are busy, whereas at home, I will stop and have lunch' (survey respondents).

However, it could be argued that due to the lack of availability of healthy, convenient food within BU, individuals have been more inclined to consume unhealthy alternatives (Hanibuchi et al., 2011: 1-9). Conversely, it could be the case that participants feel health is not as important as they portray it to be, and even though they might contemplate health behavioural changes, the pros have not yet overcome the cons for actions to be taken (Velicer et al., 1998: 216-233). Nevertheless, the findings have clarified that time has an impact on when and what individuals are able to consume during their time at university, consequently having a negative impact on their diet. Therefore, in order for individuals to be able to consume a well-balanced diet throughout the day, it is vital that a larger variety of food is accessible to these individuals for a longer period of time.


Peer Pressure

Previous research concerned with the foodscape mainly focuses on the physical aspects surrounding the topic. However, little to no consideration has been paid to the 'emotional' foodscape. Doherty et al. (2011: 217-224) highlighted that the transition young people go through in search of their independence can lead to long-lasting health-related behaviours. Additionally, such process has proved to lead individuals to be less influenced by their parents' decisions and more so by their peers (Sheppard and Dennison, 1996: 345-357).Therefore, if healthy eating is not a general concern amongst the peer group, it is less likely that the individuals will make positive health behaviour change. 'We've [housemates] decided to have fish and chips Friday, so we do have fish and chips every Friday now'; 'One of my friends is into exercising and healthy eating; if I'm with him I tend to have whatever he has, If I'm with my housemate who has a poor diet, I cave into having crisps and chocolates' (survey respondents).

This investigation has further identified an affiliation between individuals' food choices and their accompaniment. However, it could be suggested that this influence could be minimised by initially targeting the university's physical foodscape, which should consequently have a positive impact on individual's emotional foodscape.

 

Conclusion, Recommendation and Limitations

Overall Conclusions

Foodscape is increasingly being considered within public health and nutrition as a key factor in individual's food choices and behaviour. Within that, the university foodscape is believed to have the opportunity to affect the overall health status of the nation significantly. Results from this research concur that the food environment can have both a direct and indirect influence on a person's diet and it appears to be even more significant in a captive setting such as that of the university. In drawing together both the primary and secondary research, the following conclusions are made. Firstly, that human behaviour is complex and therefore various factors within the foodscape will impact individuals differently. However, by considering the model created, individual's health behaviour can be positively affected by the university's foodscape. Secondly, health is currently not consumers' priority during food procurement; although its influence is rising. Therefore, educating consumers through simplified methods of nutritional information and allowing informed decisions to be made, health driven food choices will become more widespread. Thirdly, poor availability and accessibility to healthy food present key barriers for individuals when trying to sustain a well-balanced diet. In addition, monetary factors were highlighted as a significant issue for student consumers, which impeded their ability to procure a balanced diet, due to healthier products often being the most expensive ones.

As a result of the above conclusions the following recommendations are made.


Recommendations
  • The university should provide additional, affordable convenient healthy food, to meet consumer's needs and wants, therefore encourage them to consume a well-balanced diet.
  • With students' unconventional eating patterns, the university should do more to offer healthy food throughout the day.
  • Provide consumers with a consistent and simpler method of nutritional information, helping them to make more informed nutritional choices
  • With financial factors being an influential factor for consumers, healthy food advertisements and promotional offers should be made more prominent; healthy food should be combined with attractive prices to generate high levels of interest

Limitations

Due to the use of a sole case study, the conclusions made are not representative of the population, consequently making it challenging for recommendations beyond the case being studied to be made. Therefore, further research is required beyond BU's case study; enabling for a more holistic representation of British universities' foodscapes. Additionally, it would be valuable to focus the study on both the physical and emotional foodscape of these universities, as it would present greater opportunity for positive changes to be made.

 


 

Acknowledgments

Firstly, I would like to thank my supervising tutor, Catherine Symonds, for challenging me with new ideas and pushing me to achieve my full potential. Secondly, I would like to show gratitude to all my friends and family for supporting me throughout this academic year.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have taken their time to participate in the interviews conducted for this study; their contribution is much appreciated.

 

List of Figures

Figure 1: Eating out attitudes towards nutritional labelling (Source: GMI/Mintel, 2009. Base: 3,752 internet users aged 16+ who eat out. Reproduced with kind permission)

Figure 2: Levels of obesity in men and women in England - 2009 (Source: Defra, 2011. Reproduced with kind permission - see copyright licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/)

Figure 3: Positive Foodscape Model

 

List of Tables

Table 1: Five stages of change (created by the author based on source material in Bridle et al. 2005).

Table 2: Food Outlets within Bournemouth University

Table 3: Tree Diagram of Findings

 

Appendices

Appendix 1: Interview Schedule


Interview Schedule

Respondent;         Date;
Respondent code;         Time;
Male/Female;         Tape recorder;
School;          

Aim

  • The aim of this research is to critically analyse Bournemouth University's students and staff approach to a healthy foodscape and evaluate if the matter is being considered within the university.

Objectives

  • Critically interrogate the literature on healthy settings, foodscapes and healthy universities
  • To critically evaluate Bournemouth University students and staff attitude towards a healthy foodscape
  • Assemble recommendations to the university management team, with regards to the procurement policy
  • Develop rapport
  • Discuss the length of the interview
  • Briefly discuss dissertation and interview purpose
  • Is it ok to use a Dictaphone
  • Turn on Dictaphone
  • Explain that questions will be asked to ensure coverage of all of the topics
  • Discuss confidentiality/anonymity and the use of the data

This interview intends to identify the extent to which individuals are influenced by Bournemouth University's food environment and the food provided within this location.

This research is not affiliated or endorsed by Bournemouth University and is being carried out on a solely academic basis. All results will be kept confidential and will only be utilised for the interest of this study.


Questions:

  1. How often do you purchase food on the university premises? If you do not, why not?
  2. Have your eating habits changed since you commenced university? (Students only)
  3. Do you think your eating habits are different when at university compared to it whilst at home?
  4. Why is that?
  5. Does the pressure of your job or your studies influence or affect your eating habits?
  6. What is the main factor influencing you when choosing what to eat?
  7. Do you think the eating environment provided by BU influences your eating habits?
  8. Do you know what the term foodscape means?
  9. Do you believe BU provides you with a variety of food options? Including healthy options?
  10. What do you consider healthy eating to be?
  11. Are you health conscious when choosing your food items at university?
  12. Do you trust the food provided by Bournemouth University to be healthy?
  13. In terms of food products, what would you like to see being provided by BU that they do not provide already?
  14. Are you normally influenced by promotional food offers in the university?
  15. Do they influence you to consume food higher in sugar?
  16. Do you look at the Calorie information provided on the food within the university?
  17. Would you find it beneficial if there was Calorie information on the hot food provided by the university? Would you like these to be simplified for you, with methods such as the traffic light system?
  18. Do you know what is recommended by the guideline daily amounts?


Thank you for your time!
 

 

Notes

[1] Agatha Martins has completed her Hospitality Management degree with first-class honours and aims to commence a career in the industry at the start of the year 2013.

 

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To cite this paper please use the following details: Martins, A. (2012), 'An Investigation into Students' and Employees' Attitudes Towards the Provision of a Healthy Foodscape within a University Setting', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012 Special Issue, www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/bcur2012specialissue/martins. Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal@warwick.ac.uk.