The booster club in Muscatine, Iowa took a chance in the fall of 2008.
Researchers from the University of Iowa asked whether the club would add healthy foods - from apples to string cheese - to its concessions menu.
And, by the way, would it also consider putting healthier ingredients in big sellers like nachos and popcorn?
These were no idle requests. Booster clubs across the United States directly support schools' athletic and extra-curricular programs like band and choir. The Muskie Boosters, for instance, raise $90,000 annually for athletics and other outside school activities. With crucial dollars at stake, clubs can be reluctant to tinker with a reliable cash generator like concession sales.
"I don't think without [revenue from] booster clubs, especially with how schools are cutting things, how they'd be able to do it," says Kate Hansen a former president of the Muskie Boosters.
The little gamble paid off for the Muskies. According to a new study published this week in the Journal of Public Health
, the club netted stable sales and revenues with the healthy-food additions over one full season. Profits remained intact as well. Average sales per varsity football game rose to $6,849 in 2009 from $6,599 the year before, an increase of 4 percent. Moreover, the healthy foods made up 9.2 percent of concession sales, signaling the new products could boost overall sales. Parents and students also said they were happy with the healthy-food choices, according to surveys cited in the study.
"This study is the first to evaluate the results on satisfaction and sales of making changes to concession-stand offerings in school settings," writes the research team, led by Helena Laroche, assistant professor in internal medicine and pediatrics at the UI and the study's corresponding author. "It provides preliminary evidence that altering offerings and adding healthy options can be done by working in concert with parent groups. Furthermore, these modifications can provide reasonable revenue and profit margins without negative effects on customer satisfaction."
To date, six other school booster clubs in Iowa have added healthy foods to their concession menus, following a how-to guide written by Laroche based on her experience in Muscatine.