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Associations between the school food environment, student consumption and body mass index of Canadian adolescents

Louise C Mâsse14*, Judith Evelyn de Niet-Fitzgerald1, Allison W Watts1, Patti-Jean Naylor2 and Elizabeth M Saewyc3

Author Affiliations

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

2 School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, PO Box 3015 STN CSC, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3P1, Canada

3 School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 2B5, Canada

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

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:29  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-29

Published: 26 March 2014



Increasing attention has been paid to the school food environment as a strategy to reduce childhood obesity. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between the school food environment, students’ dietary intake, and obesity in British Columbia (BC), Canada.


In 2007/08, principal responses about the school environment (N = 174) were linked to grades 7-12 students (N = 11,385) from corresponding schools, who participated in the BC Adolescent Health Survey. Hierarchical mixed-effect regression analyses examined the association between the school food environment and student’s intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), food consumption, and body mass index. Analyses controlled for school setting, neighborhood education level and student’s age and sex.


School availability of SSBs was positively associated with moderate (Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.15, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.02-1.30) and high (OR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.13-1.80) SSB intake as were less healthful school nutrition guidelines for moderate SSB consumers only (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.48-0.88). Availability of SSBs at school and its consumption were positively associated with student obesity (OR = 1.50, 95% CI = 1.12-2.01 and OR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.19-2.34, respectively) but not with overweight. In contrast, consumption of less healthful food was positively associated with overweight (OR = 1.03, 95% CI = 1.01-1.06).


The results of this study provide further evidence to support the important role of schools in shaping adolescents’ dietary habits. Availability and consumption of SSBs, but not less healthful foods, at school were associated with higher adolescent obesity highlighting that other environments also contribute to adolescent obesity.

School food environment; Diet; Body mass index; School policy; Sugar-sweetened beverages; Adolescents