UC Berkeley researchers publish report on campus nutrition policy

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Luce Collymore Abbas/Staff
A team of UC Berkeley researchers, in collaboration with the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, published findings regarding the implementation of the Food and Beverage Choice policy on campus. The report details the impacts this policy will have on campus dining halls and campus-sponsored events, among others.

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Researchers from UC Berkeley and the UC Nutrition Policy Institute published a report Aug. 6 detailing the development and implementation of the Food and Beverage Choices, or FBC, policy on campus.

The policy, which has been in effect since 2019, establishes nutrition standards for dining halls, food vendors, athletic concessions, vending machines and campus-sponsored events. It was established in accordance with the Culinary Institute of America’s Menus of Change and federal dietary guidelines, according to the report. The report itself was released in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Standards include, but are not limited to, the required offering of fruits and vegetables, caloric and sugar restrictions and the provision of meat substitutes where meat is offered, according to the policy.

UC Berkeley is the first institution of higher education in the country to adopt a nutrition policy of this scope, according to a press release from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute.

“Unlike in K-12 schools, higher education institutions are not governed by federal policies to ensure that foods and beverages sold on campus meet minimum nutrition standards,” the press release reads.

The press release added that other universities have participated in voluntary nutrition programs.

Kim Guess, co-author of the report, noted that it was difficult to gain support for nutritious food services in the absence of a campus-wide policy.

“Policies are one of the tools used to foster a healthy campus environment and make the healthy choice the easy choice, along with programs, resources, and other strategies,” Guess said in an email. “Without improving the food environment, health education alone often isn’t enough to lead to lasting change.”

Although many food service operations are required to comply, the policy states that some will be exempt, such as food trucks and vendors with existing contracts.

The report also noted that “no progress” has been made toward implementing the policy at athletic concessions due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletic concessions are not the only operation affected by the pandemic, however — the report states that the pandemic has also prevented many campus restaurants and vendors from adhering to the policy guidelines. It is still in the process of being implemented throughout campus, according to the report.

The report also cited other challenges that have delayed the implementation of the FBC policy, including inconsistent communication with vendors and difficulty monitoring compliance.

There is little research on the effects of university-wide nutrition policies, the report noted.

Guess added that the people involved in the report could not conduct the necessary research because campus does not yet have the infrastructure to collect health data from the community.

“This policy is just one of many approaches to foster a healthy campus environment,” Guess said in an email. “Wellness is multi-faceted and nutrition is just one component.”

Riley Cooke is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @rrileycooke.