Food purchasing behaviors and related factors of college students at a large university in the South Central region of the United States
The food purchasing behaviors of college students are minimally understood, though they may continue throughout life. Assessing food purchasing behaviors can help describe college student food environments and dietary practices. This study utilized a receipt collection from a convenience sample of 258 participants to capture food purchasing behaviors, including all food outlets receipts to illustrate a wide-range of food purchasing behaviors. Participants first completed an online questionnaire assessing purchasing behaviors and food security, followed by a seven-day food and beverage receipt log.
The study attempted to determine food purchasing trends including the location of purchases, the types of foods typically purchased, and amount of money spent per food outlet. Differences in food purchasing behaviors were assessed between student characteristics using t tests and ANOVAS. Major findings included the highest frequency of purchases occurred at fast-food venues, with an average of 2.5 purchases per week. Additionally, 83.7% of the participants purchased at least one sweetened beverage and 71.3% purchased at least one fried item for that week. Finally, the most money was spent on grocery store purchases with an average of $43.98 per week. Significant differences in purchasing behaviors between living arrangements and student classification levels were determined, though none were found between gender and food security levels for this sample. The study findings provide insight into dietary patterns among college students through a unique, objective method of receipt analysis. Moreover, documented college student food purchasing behavior may assist nutrition professionals to target educational efforts to improve food and beverage selection.