Poster Presentation ANZOS Annual Scientific Meeting 2021

Surviving Covid: Impacts on the university food environment after lockdown (#209)

Clare F Dix 1 , Aleisha Bliesner 1 , Samantha Staines 1 , Helen Truby 1
  1. School of Human Movements and Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, The Univeristy of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

The high availability and accessibility of nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods in the modern food environment has been linked to poor diets and health outcomes. Tertiary education settings have been identified as potential targets for interventions. In the second quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a substantial reduction in activity on The University of Queensland (UQ) campus due to the lockdown. Online learning drastically reduced numbers of students and staff on campus. This study aimed to assess the reawakening of the food environment at UQ St Lucia campus. An audit of the food environment at UQ St Lucia campus was conducted in July 2020, when the campus reopened. Food offerings were benchmarked against the Victorian Healthy Choices framework and Queensland’s A Better Choice. Pricing and promotions of foods and beverages were also analysed. Out of forty-three food outlets pre-lockdown eight had not re-opened. There was a noticeable reduction in stock levels throughout the remaining outlets. Closed outlets included the salad bar in the main refractory, the fruit stall, two fast food outlets and two cafes. Of the audited outlets, only  one vendor met the criteria for healthy meals, two outlets met the criteria for healthy snacks, and no retailer met the criteria for healthy drinks. Healthy and unhealthy choices were priced similarly, however red choices were more frequently promoted. Fast food outlets made up the majority of retailers around campus. The post-lock down food environment poses a substantial challenge to re-establishing a healthier food environment as students and staff return to campus. These challenges include “snap-lockdowns” resulting impacting the financial viability for retailers who require rapid turnover of perishable fresh foods. Potential management strategies could include flexible leasing and incentives to re-establish vendors supplying healthy food and drinks including vending.