Essays on Healthy Eating and Away from Home Food Expenditures of Adults and Children
Campbell, Benjamin Louis
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Healthy eating and food away from home expenditures are gaining increasing notoriety within the U.S. These issues are not only a concern for businesses, but governmental policy makers have also shown interest in both increasing nutrition for children and better understanding the behaviors of those consuming food away from home. For this reason, a large amount of research has been devoted to better evaluating the effects of various governmental programs on nutrition, with an equal amount of work detailing which groups are eating away from home. The methodologies employed by past research have varied, as have the results and inferences that have been drawn. For this reason, we incorporated new methodologies, consistent with theory, in order to explain the effects of an important governmental program, National School Lunch Program, on childhood nutrition. We further established consumer profiles and the effects of transactional variables, previous away from home behavior, and decision structure on food away from home expenditures. In regards to the National School Lunch Program we found that meal nutritional quality is not higher for program participants, however, overall intake for most vitamins, minerals, and other dietary components is higher compared to non-participants that attend a school which participates in the program. The reason for increased intake is due to the increased consumption of food for participants, not due to food quality. Furthermore, comparing children that participate in the program to those attending schools that do not participate indicates that both quality and quantity are insignificantly different. Examination of blood levels and healthy eating measures indicates few differences among the treatment groups. Evaluating the effect of transactional variables and previous purchase behavior on food away from home expenditures by meal occasion indicates both play a significant role. Transactional variables consist of factors that are directly related to a meal, e.g. facility type, means of ordering, and age structure of meal participants. The effect of transactional variables is highly dependent on the variable being considered. Previous purchase behavior displays expected results with regards to past participation effects, however, past expenditure effects tended to increase spending on future meals with results being somewhat consistent across large meals. Transactional variables were also evaluated to determine their effect on food away from home expenditures by facility type. A new decision structure chronology was also implemented. Past research has focused on modeling the decision process as either a two or three-step process. The two-step structure is usually defined as the "participation at facility type" and "expenditure level" decisions, whereas the three-step structure is defined by the "participation," "facility type," and "expenditure level" decisions. We, however, propose a change to the three-step decision structure which we believe more adequately defines the decision chronology. We, therefore, model the three-step decision structure in the following order: "participation," "expenditure level," and "facility type." Results showed that both the new decision structure and transactional variables are important to the expenditure amounts and who is eating away from home at each facility type.