If We Offer It, Will Children Buy It? Sales of Healthy Foods Mirrored Their Availability in a Community Sport, Commercial Setting in Alberta, Canada

By Olstad, Dana Lee; Goonewardene, Laksiri A. et al. | Childhood Obesity, April 2015 | Go to article overview

If We Offer It, Will Children Buy It? Sales of Healthy Foods Mirrored Their Availability in a Community Sport, Commercial Setting in Alberta, Canada


Olstad, Dana Lee, Goonewardene, Laksiri A., McCargar, Linda J., Raine, Kim D., Childhood Obesity


[Author Affiliation]

Dana Lee Olstad. 1 School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Laksiri A. Goonewardene. 2 Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 3 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Linda J. McCargar. 3 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Kim D. Raine. 1 School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Address correspondence to: Dana Lee Olstad, PhD, RD, Research Fellow, Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia, E-mail: dana.olstad@deakin.edu.au

Introduction

The intractable nature of the obesity epidemic illustrates the power of environmental forces to overwhelm individuals' rational decision-making abilities and best intentions, because given the choice, most individuals would not choose to be obese. That many individuals persist in unhealthy dietary behaviors despite knowing what they "ought" to do is consistent with behavioral economic theory, which posits that many decisions, and, in particular, food-related decisions, are made rapidly, in a noncognitive manner, and in response to environmental stimuli.1 Thus, individuals make quick judgments about what to eat based not on whether foods will maximize their long-term health, but primarily for short-term hedonic pursuits.2 This account of human behavior suggests that environmental changes that facilitate healthier choices may hold the key to improving population-level dietary behaviors.3

Increasing the availability of healthier foods within homes4-6 and schools7,8 is one type of environmental change that has been consistently associated with improved dietary behaviors among children. Nevertheless, the potential effectiveness of this strategy within the broader community, including the commercial sector, is not known, given that few studies exist. Positive findings from several studies, however, suggest that increasing the availability of healthier foods in these settings has potential to improve food purchases.9-12 If changes to food environments within homes and schools are to improve health, concurrent, parallel changes must be implemented in other settings, creating a layering effect, such that a large proportion of children are consistently exposed to a diverse array of healthy food options. Rigorous evaluation of the impact of increased availability of healthy foods on dietary behaviors in multiple contexts is therefore essential.

In Canada, community sports facilities are publicly funded sport complexes primarily frequented by children and their families. These facilities are an important resource for health promotion because they house a variety of community events and provide access to affordable physical activities (both competitive and recreational in nature). However, despite their health mandate, the availability of healthy foods in community sports facilities is limited.13-15 Sports settings in other nations have similarly been identified as venues for unhealthy eating.16-20 Managers in these settings are often reluctant to voluntarily offer healthy options because they perceive that healthy foods are not profitable.21-23 Moreover, the appropriateness of increasing availability of healthy options through voluntary or mandated measures in sports settings is contested, in part because unhealthy options are normative in these settings and many believe that individuals are sufficiently active while there to offset their caloric intake.24 Thus, studies are needed to investigate how to improve food selection in this community context. …

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