The Florida Prevention Research Center (FPRC) at the USF College of Public Health worked with the Lexington, Kentucky Tweens Nutrition and Fitness coalition to make healthy foods more accessible throughout the city.
One initiative, Better Bites: Snack Strong, provides technical assistance and marketing support to improve the nutritional quality of menus at venues that cater predominately to youth.
Healthy food offerings that meet Better Bites: Snack Strong nutrition guidelines now appear on menus at public pools and government cafeterias, school concessions, movie theaters, restaurants, summer camps, Kentucky State Parks and many other venues.
Like many cities, Lexington has seen a sharp rise in childhood obesity. One in three Lexington youth, between ages five to 18, are overweight or obese.
Research revealed that many residents had difficulty purchasing healthy foods in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and recreational venues. Though youth are encouraged to eat healthy food, they are often not available at the places they frequent.
The FPRC and Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition used social marketing principles and techniques to gain the insights needed to select and promote policy and environmental changes to make healthy foods more accessible “where ever people live, learn work and play.”
“By making healthy food more normative we hope to change youth’s expectations about what constitutes an enjoyable snack at a public venue,” said Dr. Carol Bryant of the FPRC. “In our opinion, the community’s leadership and the use of social marketing were the essential ingredients.”
The Better Bites: Snack Strong initiative gained important traction as soon as the Parks and Recreation Department adopted it.
Nutritionists on the coalition worked with park staff to design eight healthful food options to sell at public pools, capturing ten percent of sales and significant media attention in the months immediately after introduction in 2011.