Helping create a Healthy Sydney University

8 August 2014

PhD student Rajshri Roy

Stakeholders from across the University have pulled up a seat at the table to support healthy food choices for students and staff on campus.

In a project supported by Healthy Sydney University, PhD student Rajshri Roy joined forces with the University of Sydney Union (USU) to investigate whether point-of-purchase kilojoule labelling affects student and staff food purchases.

"The campaign is all about supporting people on campus to better understand their personal energy requirements and to make more informed decisions about their kilojoule intake," says Rajshri, who is leading the research project with the support of her PhD supervisor, Associate Professor Margaret Allman-Farinelli from the School of Molecular Bioscience and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Management and staff from the USU's Manning Grill outlet on Camperdown Campus, including USU's head of operations, Peter Underwood, worked with Rajshri to analyse the energy content of Manning Grill food items and display them on the menu.

"The USU and the team at Manning Grill have been really proactive with this project - revamping their menu to lower the kilojoules of some menu items, offering a variety of healthy options and the choice of a side salad instead of chips," says Rajshri.

With the help of undergraduate and masters students from the School of Molecular Bioscience, Rajshri initiated a social marketing campaign and has used intercept surveys and sales data to assess the effects of the new menus on consumer awareness and food choices.

According to Rajshri, students and staff who were surveyed were receptive to the idea of kilojoule labelling, commenting that it assists them to be better informed about their food choices away from home.

"People who were conscious of the kilojoule labeling on the whole bought 800 to 900 kilojoules less than those who ignored it," she says.

The project forms part of a broader strategy led by Healthy Sydney University's 'Eat Better' working group (chaired by Associate Professor Margaret Allman-Farinelli and Professor Stephen Colagiuri) who will continue to work on University-wide policy initiatives regarding healthier food choices at campus outlets and through University catering.

"It's fantastic to see an original project like this generating further discussion and initiatives for healthier eating on our campuses - it's a perfect example of the type of project that we support," says Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, chair of Healthy Sydney University.

"Healthy Sydney University is there to facilitate projects that allow collaboration between staff, researchers, students and student organisations. We support projects that generate evidence in real-life settings and will lead to practical further action with real and tangible benefits for our community."

If you have a great idea or project that can impact on staff and/or student health, Healthy Sydney University has funding to 'seed' projects in 2015. The project must follow the Healthy Sydney University Guiding Principles. Both students and staff can apply for funding. Please use the online application form to submit your proposal.

The closing date for applications is 5pm Thursday 4 September for projects in 2015. Please contact Elly Howse, Senior Project Officer, if you have any questions: