The Health Promotion and Wellness unit of Student Affairs launched Nourishing Minds this semester in order to promote healthy snacking habits, but students remain unaware of the new program due to lack of advertising.
The program is designed to help students determine which specific snacks and food help students achieve success. The department piloted the program in Healthy U, located in the Cesar Chavez Student Center because the store already offers a broad selection of healthy snacks.
“When I would start in nutrition counseling, a lot of the times, the two main anxieties that students would have is that they can’t afford food or they don’t know what’s healthy and how to identify those choices,” said Lauren Muckley, SF State dietician and nutrition health educator.
Last semester, the Health Promotion and Wellness unit of Student Affairs took its first step in addressing food insecurity by assisting students with CalFresh applications. To help students identify healthy choices, the department introduced Nourishing Minds to promote “snacking smarter and studying harder.”
Since this was the first time they were conducting a study on nutritional values, Muckley and her interns decided to start with snacks that were only one serving per item, like energy bars. Last spring they began analyzing nutrition facts from different brands of energy bars and selected the ones they noted as healthier options.
The criteria they set for approval included snacks containing 200 calories or less, no more than 35 percent of the total calories from fat or a maximum of 8 grams of total fat, no more than 10 percent of the total calories from saturated fats, no more than 300 mg of sodium and at least one dietary fiber.
These standards are similar to Sodexo’s Mindful Eating nutrition criteria. Muckley made sure that Nourishing Minds followed the same criteria as Sodexo’s as well as the government’s suggested dietary intake.
“The calories are based on a 2,000-calorie diet and I believe for meals, we chose 600 calories as the limit, so that would be about 1,800 on meals and that’s how we got the 200-calorie limit for snacks,” Muckley said. “Then the others are based on the government standards on dietary intake.”
Nourishing Minds approved QuestBar, CoGo Bar, Frontier Bites and ThinkThin after the study and placed these products on two racks in Health U with the label “Nourishing Minds.” These racks are the program’s first exposure to advertising. Muckley said her interns also go to Healthy U to advertise the racks to customers.
In terms of getting students to notice the racks, Healthy U Manager Elsa Ramos said the Nourishing Minds program needs to advertise more aggressively. Eunice Au, an employee at Healthy U and The Lobby Shop, said students haven’t really noticed the Nourishing Minds racks. Au has observed that younger students seem to buy more junk food while older people purchase healthier snacks.
“The fastest selling products in The Lobby Shop are junk foods such as bags of chips, chocolate bars, sodas and energy drinks like Monsters,” said Ray Barrientes, a supervisor at both Healthy U and The Lobby Shop. “In Healthy U, the Kombuchas and Yerba Mate’s are the best sellers.”
Allison Cospin, a psychology major, admitted that selecting snacks sometimes depends on her financial situation. She only purchases healthy snacks when she can afford it.
“When I don’t have a lot of money, then I’d go to the Lobby Shop,” Cospin said.
It is still too soon to tell whether Nourishing Minds has had an impact on students’ snacking habits since the racks have only been there for a few weeks, according to Matt James, an international business major and employee at Healthy U.
“We will also be adding a Nourishing Minds refrigerated section, which will hopefully help with visibility. It is going to be added to the parent and family newsletter, as well as on our website,” Muckley said.
Ramos said it is still unclear whether they will be making any changes in order to make the racks more visible at Healthy U, but Barrientes believes that ad campaigns could help the program gain traction.
“People already think everything is healthy in (Healthy U),” said Laily Hakimzada, a biology major, said. “Maybe they need to put (up) a funny sign if they want the racks to attract more attention, like an internet meme or something.”
The Health Promotion and Wellness department is hoping to extend Nourishing Minds program to all food vendors on campus in the future.