Assessment of the dining environment on and near the campuses of fifteen post-secondary institutions

Tanya M. Horacek, Maria B. Erdman, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Gale Carey, Sarah M. Colby, Geoffrey W. Greene, Wen Guo, Kendra K. Kattelmann, Melissa Olfert, Jennifer Walsh, Adrienne B. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Objective The present study evaluated the restaurant and dining venues on and near post-secondary campuses varying in institution size. Design The Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Restaurants (NEMS-R) was modified to evaluate restaurants as fast food, sit down and fast casual; and campus dining venues as dining halls, student unions and snack bar/cafés. ANOVA with post hoc Tukey's B and T tests were used to distinguish differences between dining venues and associated institutions by size. Setting The study was conducted at fifteen US post-secondary institutions, 2009-2011. Subjects Data presented are from a sample of 175 restaurants and sixty-eight on-campus dining venues. Results There were minimal differences in dining halls by institution size, although medium-sized institutions as compared with small-sized institutions offered significantly more healthful side dish/salad bar items. Dining halls scored significantly higher than student unions or snack bar/cafés on healthful entrées, side dish/salad bar and beverages offerings, but they also had the most barriers to healthful dietary habits (i.e. all-you-can-eat). No differences were found by restaurant type for NEMS-R scores for total restaurant dining environment or healthful entrées and barriers. Snack bars had more healthful side dishes (P = 0·002) and fast-food restaurants had the highest level of facilitators (i.e. nutrition information; P = 0·002). Conclusions Based on this evaluation in fifteen institutions, the full campus dining environment provides limited support for healthy eating and obesity prevention. The quality of campus dining environments can be improved via healthful offerings, providing nutrition information and other supports to facilitate healthy eating and prevent unwanted weight gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1186-1196
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Campus eating environment
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Meal healthfulness
  • Restaurant evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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