Graduate receives award at the Nutrition Futures Conference

Recent graduate Grace Holden was awarded “Best Original Communication Presentation” at the Nutrition Futures Conference.

Our Nutrition BSc recent graduate Grace Holden was awarded “Best Original Communication Presentation” at the Nutrition Futures conference last week. The title of her presentation was ‘Vending machines in Leeds leisure centres: An intervention to increase the availability of healthy snack products.’

Grace said:

The conference was a fantastic few days and I gained so much from the experience. It was great to have the opportunity to present my research. I also enjoyed meeting other students, graduates and professionals from various industries, all with a shared interest in nutritional science. I made some great connections there and I hope that our paths will cross again in the future.

Nutrition Futures Conference is a yearly event addressed to students, graduates or prospective students in the areas of food, nutrition, dietetics and similar subjects. The attendees have a unique opportunity to enhance their skills of networking, receive career support and learn new ideas from their peers.

Grace’s final research project focused on an intervention within Leeds leisure centres to increase the availability of healthy snack products in vending machines. This was carried out in collaboration with Public Health England and Leeds City Council and aimed to investigate whether increasing the provision of healthy snack products can push consumers towards healthier dietary choices. 

The intervention was carried out within 18 leisure centre vending machines in 2018 and data, including monthly sales and nutritional information, was collected within a baseline phase (September – October) and phase one (November – December). Products were altered at the start of phase one in line with government standards, including removing products above certain thresholds for calories or portion size. 

Results indicated energy, saturated fat, sugar, salt and portion size of the average product sold, all significantly decreased post-intervention. Interestingly, the most popular savoury product in phase one was half the portion size of the favourite at baseline, illustrating the effect this intervention had on purchasing behaviour. However, sales also declined by 17% from baseline to phase one, which could limit the commercial viability of the changes.

The importance of the research should be acknowledged as well, as it can be used to inform vended snack supply in Leeds leisure centres and contribute to the evidence to improve the public food environment.

Asked about her motivation to attend the conference, Grace replied:

My tutor and other lecturers have always massively encouraged me to grasp any opportunities I can. With their support, I applied to present my research at the Nutrition Futures conference, where I received the award for ‘Best Original Communication Presentation’. Throughout my course, I had to deliver several presentations and answer difficult questions. These previous experiences provided me with the essential skills and the confidence to present at the conference and achieve this award. 

Grace is hoping this is not her last conference since the experience was incredibly valuable and she would like to continue to deliver presentations within her career, to share important messages surrounding public health nutrition.