Lifting barriers to nutrition

May 24, 2012 By Bev Betkowski, University of Alberta
Anna Farmer (left) and Linda McCarger conducted a nutrition study as part of a larger U of A project aimed at evaluating Alberta's nutrition guidelines for children in schools.

(Medical Xpress) -- A University of Alberta study has revealed challenges that schools are working through, to adopt healthier food choices for their students in an effort to meet government guidelines for nutrition.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior showed that profit loss, parental concerns, student preferences and physical location of the school all pose challenges to adopting healthy eating guidelines set out by the provincial government.

The study was conducted as part of a larger U of A research project aimed at evaluating the awareness, adoption and implementation of the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth in schools. The guidelines were released in 2008 by the provincial government, to provide schools, child-care facilities and recreation centres, with ways to use Canada’s Guide and create healthy food environments.

The measures—all voluntary— include offering healthier in school cafeterias and vending machines, serving smaller portions, supporting children who have food allergies and ensuring students have appropriate time and space to eat.

Professor Linda McCargar of the U of A’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, was interested in whether the guidelines were being adopted.

“Guidelines are released all the time, and we wanted to evaluate the ones in Alberta, particularly for such a broad audience of child-care facilities, schools and recreation centres,” said McCargar, who led the study.

Using a phone survey of 19 questions, the U of A researchers interviewed principals, teachers or other staff from 357 urban and rural schools across Alberta, asking about school characteristics (such as proximity to malls), use of the Alberta , and any barriers to using them.

The survey showed that within one year of the guidelines being released, 65 per cent of the schools had adopted them in some way, while 35 per cent were considered not to be using them at that time. Schools that were larger, public, urban and had a designated food champion were more likely to adopt the guidelines, the study found.

“The early buy-in was pretty good, but they still find it a challenge to follow the guidelines 100 per cent,” said Anna Farmer, a co-author on the study and Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and the Centre for Health Promotion Studies.

The study uncovered a lack of resources for schools to cover various financial or programming gaps in delivering the nutrition ; for instance, covering the losses of funds previously raised through vending machine sales, or having a dedicated staffer to be a ‘food champion’, in order to lead school initiatives on nutrition.

“By providing resources, the government will help schools move towards healthier food choices, and ultimately, we hope to see that the norm in schools and other youth facilities is that healthy eating is valued and that students learn more about ,” McCargar said.

The study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Group suggests pushing age of adolescence to 24

January 22, 2018
A small group of researchers with the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia is suggesting that it might be time to change the span of years that define adolescence—from the current 10 to 19 to a proposed 10 to 24 years ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.