Toolkit supports moves toward healthy options at school concession stands

Published on September 16, 2016

Adults with children in youth sports are familiar with the urgent emails that arrive under desperate subject lines like: “Volunteers needed for the concession stand! PLEASE HELP!!!”

For every parent who slips on plastic gloves to handle food or stays late to help clean up, there are other volunteers and administrators working behind the scenes to make sure the booth is adequately staffed, well supplied with the most popular items, and operating profitably.

Concession stands sales at school sporting events are often an important source of funds for student activities, but University of Iowa researchers have found that providing healthy options at concession stands is also good for sales and for customer satisfaction.

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A new toolkit available from the University of Iowa’s Prevention Research Center (PRC) provides practical assistance to help youth concession stands add healthy options to the menu — and maintain profits. The toolkit, available for free download on the PRC website, will assist groups to determine goals, choose probable changes, devise a purchasing plan, assess the profitability of changes, implement the plan, and keep track of set-backs and benefits of the changes.

“Making sure there are some healthy options available helps the school send a consistent message about healthy eating,” says Helena Laroche, assistant professor of internal medicine. “It also helps families watching the game with healthy options for themselves and their children.”

Previous research by Laroche and colleagues found that concession stand changes to incorporate healthier foods were well received and revenue remained high. Some foods like nacho cheese or popcorn oil were changed (no trans fats, less saturated fat) and other healthy options (chicken sandwiches, granola bars, fruits and vegetables, trail mix) were added to the concession stand menu. Modifying current food options and adding other healthy options has proven to be effective in concession stands, according to Laroche’s research.

For more information on Laroche’s research, see http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/obesity/Behavioral_Med/ or contact Dr. Laroche at Helena-laroche@uiowa.edu.

The University of Iowa Prevention Research Center is one of 26 university-affiliated research centers funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct applied public health research. The Iowa PRC, directed by Professor Edith Parker and based the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the UI College of Public Health, has research themes focusing on nutrition, physical activity, and aging. For more information, visit https://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/prc/.