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Open Access Research

School nutritional capacity, resources and practices are associated with availability of food/beverage items in schools

Louise C Mâsse* and Judith E de Niet

Author Affiliations

University of British Columbia, School of Population and Public Health, F508-4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:26  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-26

Published: 19 February 2013

Abstract

Background

The school food environment is important to target as less healthful food and beverages are widely available at schools. This study examined whether the availability of specific food/beverage items was associated with a number of school environmental factors.

Methods

Principals from elementary (n = 369) and middle/high schools (n = 118) in British Columbia (BC), Canada completed a survey measuring characteristics of the school environment. Our measurement framework integrated constructs from the Theories of Organizational Change and elements from Stillman’s Tobacco Policy Framework adapted for obesity prevention. Our measurement framework included assessment of policy institutionalization of nutritional guidelines at the district and school levels, climate, nutritional capacity and resources (nutritional resources and participation in nutritional programs), nutritional practices, and school community support for enacting stricter nutritional guidelines. We used hierarchical mixed-effects logistic regression analyses to examine associations with the availability of fruit, vegetables, pizza/hamburgers/hot dogs, chocolate candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, and french fried potatoes.

Results

In elementary schools, fruit and vegetable availability was more likely among schools that have more nutritional resources (OR = 6.74 and 5.23, respectively). In addition, fruit availability in elementary schools was highest in schools that participated in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program and the BC Milk program (OR = 4.54 and OR = 3.05, respectively). In middle/high schools, having more nutritional resources was associated with vegetable availability only (OR = 5.78). Finally, middle/high schools that have healthier nutritional practices (i.e., which align with upcoming provincial/state guidelines) were less likely to have the following food/beverage items available at school: chocolate candy (OR = .80) and sugar-sweetened beverages (OR = .76).

Conclusions

School nutritional capacity, resources, and practices were associated with the availability of specific food/beverage items in BC public schools. Policies targeting the school environment are increasingly being considered as one of the strategies used to address childhood obesity, as a result it is important to further understand the factors associated with the availability of specific food/beverage items at school.

Keywords:
Nutrition; School environment; Organizational support; School policy; Availability of food; Availability of sweetened beverages; Fruit; Vegetables; Junk food; Less healthful food