Toward a Healthy and Environmentally Sustainable Campus Food Environment: A Scoping Review of Postsecondary Food Interventions

Adv Nutr. 2021 Oct 1;12(5):1996-2022. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmab026.


Interventions are urgently needed to transform the food system and shift population eating patterns toward those consistent with human health and environmental sustainability. Postsecondary campuses offer a naturalistic setting to trial interventions to improve the health of students and provide insight into interventions that could be scaled up in other settings. However, the current state of the evidence on interventions to support healthy and environmentally sustainable eating within postsecondary settings is not well understood. A scoping review of food- and nutrition-related interventions implemented and evaluated on postsecondary campuses was conducted to determine the extent to which they integrate considerations related to human health and/or environmental sustainability, as well as to synthesize the nature and effectiveness of interventions and to identify knowledge gaps in the literature. MEDLINE (via PubMed), CINAHL, Scopus, and ERIC were searched to identify articles describing naturalistic campus food interventions published in English from January 2015 to December 2019. Data were extracted from 38 peer-reviewed articles, representing 37 unique interventions, and synthesized according to policy domains within the World Cancer Research Foundation's NOURISHING framework. Most interventions were focused on supporting human health, whereas considerations related to environmental sustainability were minimal. Interventions to support human health primarily sought to increase nutrition knowledge or to make complementary shifts in food environments, such as through nutrition labeling at point of purchase. Interventions to support environmental sustainability often focused on reducing food waste and few emphasized consumption patterns with lower environmental impacts. The implementation of integrated approaches considering the complexity and interconnectivity of human and planetary health is needed. Such approaches must go beyond the individual to alter the structural determinants that shape our food system and eating patterns.

Keywords: campus settings; environmental sustainability; food environments; healthy eating; interventions; nutrition policy; postsecondary settings; scoping review; students; young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Food Supply
  • Food*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Refuse Disposal*