Dr. Helena Laroche, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, and her research team along with Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, said in contrast to the nutrition requirements on breakfast and lunches sold in school cafeterias, food sold at concession stands do not follow the standard nutrition guidelines because they are typically sold for fundraising purposes.
The research teams identified two successful strategies for improving the nutritional quality of foods sold at concession stands -- offer five to 10 healthy food options and modify the ingredients of popular items to contain less saturated and trans fats.
For the study, revenue and sales data from the concessions at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa, were collected for two fall sports seasons one year apart. During the first season, no changes were made to the food sold.
During the second season, eight new healthier foods were sold in addition to the standard foods offered.
These foods included carrots, apples, a grilled chicken sandwich, and string cheese. Furthermore, the regular nacho cheese sauce was replaced with a no trans-fat variety and the popcorn was prepared with canola oil that has less saturated fat and no trans-fat compared to the coconut oil bars previously used.
Overall, the healthier items accounted for 9.2 percent of total sales, a clear indication of demand for these items. Sales of these items increased from game to game suggesting increasing interest in these foods. Income also increased by 4 percent when the healthier items were sold.
Sales of the modified nacho's and popcorn increased by 8 percent despite the relatively healthier nature of the foods, the study said. Finally, student satisfaction with the foods sold was not affected when the healthier foods were offered and parental satisfaction increased, the researchers said.