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Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jul;16(7):1291-5. doi: 10.1017/S136898001200328X. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

College cafeteria snack food purchases become less healthy with each passing week of the semester.

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Dyson School Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.



Snacks, stress and parties all contribute to the weight gain – the elusive ‘Freshman 15’ – that some college-goers unfortunately experience. The present study examines how a` la carte snack choice changes on a university campus during each progressing week of the academic calendar.


How a` la carte snack choices change on a university campus with each progressing week of the academic calendar was examined.


The data were collected from three large cafeterias (or dining halls) on Cornell University’s campus during four semesters (Fall 2006, Spring 2007, Fall 2007 and Spring 2008), for 18 weeks in each semester.


After the a` la carte snack items were divided into healthy snacks and unhealthy snacks, the percentage share for each food category was calculated.


Within each semester, the unhealthy snack food choices increased consistently by 0?4% per week (b50?00418, P,0?01). Furthermore, a sharp (8 %) increase occurred in the final two weeks of the semester. In contrast, healthy snack food choices decreased by almost 4% (b520?0408, P,0?01) in the final two weeks during the fall semester.


These results demonstrate an increased demand for hedonic, or unhealthy, snack foods as the college semester progresses and in particular at the very end of the semester. To counter this tendency towards unhealthy snacking, cafeterias and stores should make extra effort to promote healthy alternatives during the later weeks of the semester.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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