Development of the university food environment assessment (Uni-food) tool and process to benchmark the healthiness, equity, and environmental sustainability of university food environments
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Globally, there is increasing interest in monitoring actions to create healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainable food environments. Currently, there is a lack of detailed tools for monitoring and benchmarking university food environments. This study aimed to develop the University Food Environment Assessment (Uni-Food) tool and process to benchmark the healthiness, equity, and environmental sustainability of food environments in tertiary education settings, and pilot test its implementation in three Australian universities in 2021. The Uni-Food tool development was informed by a review of the literature and input from an expert advisory panel. It comprises three components: 1) university systems and governance, 2) campus facilities and environments, and 3) food retail outlets. The process for implementing the tool is designed for universities to self-assess the extent to which they have implemented recommended practice in 68 indicators, across 16 domains, weighted based on their relative importance. The pilot implementation of the tool identified moderate diversity in food environments across universities and highlighted several opportunities for improvements at each institution. The assessment process was found to be reliable, with assessors rating the tool as easy to use, requiring minimal resources. Broad application of the tool has the potential to increase accountability and guide best practice in tertiary education and other complex institutional settings.
Open Access Status
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National Health and Medical Research Council