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Fighting to eat healthfully: measurements of the military food environment

Julia Carins (Griffith Health Institute, Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (Griffith Health Institute, Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 30 September 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on a quantitative study of the food environment designed to measure aspects of support for healthy eating.

Design/methodology/approach

An ecological view of eating behaviour was taken by examining the food environment that surrounded a military population of interest. Food outlets (n = 34) were assessed using the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey in store (NEMS-S), Nutrition Environment Measures Study in restaurants (NEMS-R) and military Nutrition Environment Assessment Tool (mNEAT) instruments to determine how well food outlets supported healthy eating.

Findings

Despite better-than-average provision of healthy options on-base, the total environment surrounding the military base barely supports healthy eating. Average support to healthy eating was 45 per cent (NEMS) or 27 per cent (mNEAT) of support that could be measured. Individuals accessing this food environment would find few healthy alternatives, little information directing them to healthy choices and pricing and promotion that drives unhealthy eating behaviours.

Research limitations/implications

This study focused on one food environment; replication is recommended to establish foundation data for benchmarking outlets, and further develop these measures for Australian settings. Future studies may assess the media environment to further extend the ecological model used.

Practical implications

A method to measure the food environment is demonstrated which provides formative research insights for use when planning social marketing interventions. Consideration of these influences together with intra- and inter-personal influences offer the potential to better design social marketing healthy eating interventions, by addressing multiple levels within an ecological framework.

Originality/value

This paper answers calls for social marketers to consider the influence of the surrounding environment, using methods not previously used in Australian settings.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

© Defence Science and Technology Organisation

The authors would like to acknowledge the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) for providing funding and in-kind support for this study; also Dr Joy Parkinson and Dr Justin Fidock for suggestions and assistance during analysis and with early drafts of the manuscript. Finally, acknowledgement and gratitude go to Kate Flinders for taking measurements in the field, subsequent data entry and for proofing the manuscript.

Citation

Carins, J. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2014), "Fighting to eat healthfully: measurements of the military food environment", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 223-239. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-02-2014-0013

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Authors