Phase II Childhood obesity is a growing and increasingly serious public health problem. Children's easy access to unhealthy foods at school may be contributing to high rates of childhood overweight and obesity. Samuels and Associates (SandA) seeks to address the issue of childhood obesity by developing a user- friendly and innovative assessment system that measures the nutritional quality of competitive foods sold on school campuses: the Food and Beverage Environment Assessment and Monitoring System (Food BEAMS). Food BEAMS would enable schools and other entities to effectively determine their adherence to nutrition standards, improve their nutrition environments, influence the development of healthy eating habits and ultimately slow the rates of childhood obesity. During Phase I, SandA successfully developed a Food BEAMS prototype which uses an observational data collection methodology to accurately catalogue competitive foods and beverages sold on school campuses, link to the nutrient database of competitive foods and beverages, and assess adherence to competitive food and beverage standards. The goal for Phase II is to develop a fully functional user-friendly software with the flexibility to analyze the nutritional quality of foods and beverages against multiple nutrition standards. Specifically, Phase II efforts will involve: re-configuring the technical application design to function in a central server and remote client format;improving the user interface to increase user-friendliness, decrease data entry time and decrease error;increasing the coverage and improving the management of the nutrient database within the system;and increasing the functionality of the system to enable users to adapt the adherence analysis to multiple nutrition standards. Finally, an experimental design will be employed to compare adherence to nutrition standards in high schools randomly assigned to use Food BEAMS and high schools randomly assigned as control sites. With the increasing number of nutrition policies at schools, health care institutions and government agencies, there is a growing market for tools that help with implementation and monitoring of nutrition standards.
This application will support the development of an innovative and user-friendly data collection and analysis tool, the Food and Beverage Analysis and Measurement System (Food BEAMS) that can be used by non-researchers such as government agencies, public health advocates and school personnel to easily and accurately assess competitive school foods and beverages and their adherence to nutrition standards. Use of this product on a national level will increase monitoring of adherence to nutrition standards and has the potential to improve the school food environment, provide students with healthier choices, influence the development of healthy eating habits among youth and ultimately slow the rates of childhood obesity.