Food environments in university dorms: 20,000 calories per dorm room and counting

Am J Prev Med. 2009 Jun;36(6):523-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.01.030. Epub 2009 Apr 8.


Background: Few young adults meet national dietary recommendations. Although home food availability likely has important influences on dietary intake, little research has examined this issue among young adults. The objective of this research was to conduct a detailed, observational assessment of food and beverages available in college-student dormitory rooms.

Methods: Dormitory-residing students (n=100) were recruited from a large, public university. Research staff completed a detailed inventory of food and beverages in the dorm rooms, including nutrient contents and purchasing sources. Data were collected and analyzed in 2008.

Results: The mean number of food and beverage items per participant was 47 (range: 0-208), with 4% of participants not having any food or beverages. More than 70% of students had each of the following types of items: salty snacks, cereal or granola bars, main dishes, desserts or candy, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Fewer students had low-calorie beverages, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, tea/coffee, and 100% fruit/vegetable juice. The average number of calories per dorm room was 22,888. Items purchased by parents had a higher calorie and fat content than items purchased by students.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that students maintain a wide array of food and beverages in their dormitory rooms. Parents purchased a substantial amount of food for their children's dormitory rooms, and these food items were less healthful than the food that students purchased. The foods observed in college students' living spaces may have an important impact on eating habits. Overall, young adult-oriented obesity prevention efforts are needed, and improving the various facets of campus food environments may mark an important component of such strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Choice Behavior
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minnesota
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Parents
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult