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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

C-store layout harms student health

Published: December 6, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

tudents take daily trips to the C-store, Brandeis’ only food store on campus. One particular student goes there every day and knows exactly what is in stock, but she always needs to prepare a small grocery list ahead of time so that she won’t get sidetracked. To her right lie all the candies in their bright packaging, and although she knows that they are unhealthy, the fact that they are right there can be problematic.

“I feel as though the candy is distracting,” said Dana Trismen ’15. “If I don’t know what I am going to buy, then I will just grab it, such as today. I had a Reese’s Fast Break even though I didn’t even want it.”

Many students share the same dilemma. Candy makes up a large proportion of the store’s products and is its bestseller. It is situated right at the entrance, and although students could find healthier options such as fruit farther back in the store, many get distracted along the way.

According to NPR, researchers warn teens that consuming too much sugar can lead to increased risk of heart diseases later on in life. Jean Welsh, study author and post-doctoral fellow in pediatric nutrition at Emory University School of Medicine, said that one-fifth of teens’ caloric intake comes from sugar alone. Having the candy on display in such a prime location perpetuates the notion that it is acceptable to keep eating more sugar even though research suggests otherwise.

Max Fabian ’15 prides himself on being up-to-date on his health knowledge and carefully watches what he eats. “I go in to the C-store, and I want to be healthy and buy an apple, and then I see the candy,” he said.

Placing candy in such a prominent place in the store tempts students to buy food that they usually would not consider. As soon as students step foot into the store, the candies are the first visible items even from a few feet away.

The campus nutritionist Kate Moran, RD, maintains that there are healthy options even within the candy wall. Although they may not be as healthy as fruit or vegetables, there are types of candy on the wall that are less detrimental to a student’s health.

“In the candy section there is dark chocolate, some with fruit and nuts in them and some with a higher percentage of cocoa, so even in the candy section there are healthy options,” Moran said.

Moran added that because the C-store is considered to be a convenience store, it has a convenience store layout. In most circumstances, this highlights the money-making products. Although the store would like to promote the items that make the most money, this limits the options students have since it is their only place to shop on campus.

In the spring of 2013, there was a second convenience-like store located on the opposite side of campus, colloquially called the “V-Store,” which has now been turned into a Dunkin’ Donuts. The Dunkin’ Donuts contains even fewer healthy options than the old V-store or the C-store, promoting its sugar-coated donuts and muffins in advertisements and at the store.

The V-store, while also a convenience store, had a different layout. It may have been because the store was smaller and had a different shape, but the candy was not in the front. Ally Eller ’15 said, “The V-Store was nice because you could see the fruit first.”

Moran explained that there are always healthy and unhealthy options anywhere on campus and in the real world. She explained that if students felt strongly, she could help educate them further on what the right choices are, but that students already know what is good for them in the store.

“People are educated and can get more education if they need to on healthier options if they find that they are struggling,” Moran said. “If you are educated and want healthy options, they are at your fingertips.” In that vein, so too are the unhealthy options, and even if students are educated, it doesn’t mean they always make the right decisions.

In David Kessler’s book, “The End of Overeating,” he discusses the science behind selling food. One man to whom Kessler talked was a venture capitalist who told him that the “goal is to get you hooked.” Can education alone unhook us? I argue no, especially when the companies also take into account our sensory perception of the food, creatively enhancing it with extra sugar and fat.

Education alone has not stopped students from eating the candy since the best-selling items at the store are candy. Students know that the candy is bad for them, but the fact that it is right in front of them may lead them to buy it.

Some students feel that the candy is more affordable. If they are hungry and have a choice between spending a dollar on one banana or on a king size Hershey bar, they may go for the chocolate in hopes of it being more filling. Fruits and nuts are some of the priciest items in the C-store.

Edan Zitelny ’17 said he thinks people buy the candy not because it is so accessible, but because “the healthier alternatives are more expensive.” Even in the rest of Usdan, healthier items cost more.

When asked if she thought the candy at the front had any impact on people’s decisions, Natalie Shushan ’14, a cashier, said that she didn’t think the candy wall made a huge impact on people’s purchases. She did mention, however, that the candy sitting next to the checkout made a difference. “100 percent of the people who buy the Ferrero Roche chocolates tell me it is because they are right there when they are paying,” Shushan said.

Moran said that the store might be able to put some fruit next to the checkout counter, where the chocolates are now, though she wasn’t confident in the idea. “If you are a person who wants to eat fruit instead of candy you are going to find the fruit.”

“I walk by [the candy] all the time, and just because it is there does not mean I am inclined to get it,” Moran said.

Students still feel tempted to buy the candy. Moran stressed that “the fruit is only 10 feet away,” but perhaps it is 10 feet too many.