Kids’ Choice Restaurant Program

Childhood obesity is among the highest in the Mexican immigrant/Mexican-American population, the fastest growing segment of the U.S. Latino population. Substantial evidence supports the importance of a healthy food environment for childhood obesity prevention and control. The latest intervention research to improve the restaurant food environment for children has focused on menu labeling; however, no study has tested methods for improving the restaurant food environment by changing what is offered to children and altering the social environment through an innovative children’s menu marketing campaign and restaurant employee training, strategies recommended by the Institute of Medicine and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

Introducing Child Menus in Restaurants to Improve Access to Healthier Foods builds on our formative research and an exploratory intervention study. During Phase I we will develop a method for observing menu ordering and consumption behaviors among children in 12 restaurants similar to those targeted during the intervention phase though located in a different community. Phase II will involve assessing the feasibility, fidelity and short-term efficacy of a restaurant-based intervention. Five pair-matched independently-owned restaurants will be randomized to an intervention or a delayed-treatment control condition. The intervention will involve (a) creating healthy child menus that meet dietary guidelines for reducing calories, fat, and sugar and increasing fruits and vegetables, and (b) promoting this menu through an innovative children’s menu marketing campaign and prompting by restaurant employees. Our focus on independent restaurants is driven both by the lack of child menus as determined by our formative research and to compliment what the restaurant industry is doing with chain restaurants.

The study will use restaurant sales data to evaluate the impact of the intervention on sales of new healthy child menu items. Additionally, we will examine whether the addition of new healthy child menus is effective at altering ordering and consumption behaviors, assessed observationally, to decrease the calories, fat, and sugar, and increase the fruits and vegetables that children consume. We will also assess customer reactions to the new child menus and marketing efforts, including satisfaction with the healthy child menus.

Contact Information
Julie Pickrel
Project Manager
T: (619) 594-3369