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Exploring pupil and staff perceptions of school food and drinks: Findings from a feasibility study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lorraine McSweeneyORCiD, Dr Jennifer BradleyORCiD, Professor Ashley AdamsonORCiD, Dr Suzanne Spence


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Background: Overweight/obesity affects at least one third of UK 11–15 y olds. Individually focussed interventions alone have proved to have limited effectiveness. Food choice architecture offers a structural approach to increase the visibility and convenience of foods to facilitate the choice of ‘healthier’ foods and also reduce choice of ‘unhealthy’ foods. This School Food Architecture (SFA) qualitative study aimed to determine the perceptions of pupils, teaching and catering staff in relation to school food provision and; to determine the perceptions of a recently implemented SFA intervention.Methods: Sixteen pupils from two schools participated in focus groups; eight school staff members participated in one-to-one interviews. Topic guides were developed from literature and in consultation with a Young Person’s Advisory Group. Thematic analysis was applied.Results: Focus group themes included: dining hall day-to-day practices; determinants of choice; and aspects of health. Interview themes included: catering practices; perceptions of food provision; health awareness and education; and perceptions and knowledge of intervention. Pupils liked to purchase hand-held, quick to purchase food items (paninis/pizza) which potentially limited their access to fruit and vegetables. They were aware of ‘healthier’ food choices but would choose other options if available. Staff were surprised at sugar content of some drinks and reported increased interest from pupils in fruit purchases during the intervention.Conclusions: Schools feed large numbers of pupils daily in challenging circumstances. Given that children consume 35–40% of their daily energy intake at school, interventions which enable healthier eating habits in school should be developed and maintained.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McSweeney L, Bradley J, Adamson A, Spence S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 6th UK Congress on Obesity 2019

Year of Conference: 2019

Pages: P19

Print publication date: 12/09/2019

Online publication date: 12/09/2019

Acceptance date: 05/07/2019

Date deposited: 19/02/2020

ISSN: 2632-9808

Publisher: Association for the Study of Obesity


DOI: 10.1530/obabs.01.P19

Series Title: Obesity Abstracts