The long-term goal of this project is to contribute to the reversal of childhood obesity trends and to enhance the health and well-being of our nation's children and future generations by impacting the supply and demand for healthful kids'meals in the nearly one million restaurants in America. In July 2011, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) launched their Kids LiveWell (KLW) program, a structured initiative designed to identify restaurant meals that meet the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines and other recommendations made by leading health organizations for children. This project will explore opportunities to 1) increase the number of KLW-qualifying choices available at restaurants nationwide (supply) and 2) develop, implement and evaluate marketing strategies to increase the number of children ordering the KLW choices (demand). Although many factors may be related to the complex issue of obesity, the restaurant environment has been identified as an important venue for nutrition initiatives, as many restaurant meals are particularly high in calories, fat, saturated ft and sodium, all of which are associated with health problems and obesity. HEALTHY DINING has been working with restaurants for over two decades to improve the nutritional quality of restaurant meals. For this study, the focus will be on "kids'meals" and the childhood obesity issue. To date, no known comprehensive program exists to promote healthy kids'meals to parents and children in restaurants while also assisting restaurants to increase the availability o healthy kids'meal offerings. For the proposed study, HEALTHY DINING will collaborate with experts and influencers involved in this public health issue, including ChildObesity180 (based at Tufts University), the National Restaurant Association, and health professionals at SuperKids Nutrition Inc. who developed the Super Crew(R) characters. Phase I will evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of a restaurant-based nutrition intervention centering on demand for healthy kids'meals. This project will involve the implementation of four marketing strategies: 1) character toy giveaways, 2) pricing interventions, 3) promotional materials such as placemats and kids'menus, and 4) wait staff recommendations. Six restaurant locations will implement these strategies during an eight week intervention period. These marketing strategies will be evaluated via feedback from restaurant general managers, wait staff, consumers (i.e., parents and children) and weekly sales data of Kids LiveWell and other kids'meals at baseline and during the intervention period. We will also conduct interviews with restaurant executives with the goals of 1) uncovering restaurants'barriers to providing healthy kids'choices and 2) gaining insight that will guide us in developing strategies to increase the availability of and demand for healthier kids'choices in restaurants.
This project contributes to reversing the rates of childhood obesity and enhancing the health and well-being of our nation's children and future generations by increasing the supply and demand for healthful kids'meals in the nearly one million U.S. restaurants. This is the first ever large-scale study to develop, implement and evaluate a comprehensive program to motivate children - and their parents - to choose healthful options in restaurants (demand). Additionally, this project will develop and evaluate strategies to reduce restaurant industry barriers to offering healthful kids options (supply).