Creating environments supportive of healthy eating is an important child obesity prevention strategy. School canteens are an integral part of the school nutrition environment, and as such, governments have introduced policies requiring schools to increase the availability of healthy foods and beverages from canteens. In order to develop strategies to support schools to implement these policies, an understanding of the factors that may facilitate and impede action is required. This study aimed to explore the influence of different social forces on a schools’ motivation to increase the availability of healthy items at the school canteen.
Cross-sectional surveys were conducted with school principals and canteen managers from primary schools in the Hunter region of NSW from February to September 2013. Participants rated the influence (on a scale of 0-10) they believed themselves, canteen managers/principals, parents, students, staff, other principals, School Education Directors, the Education Department, and the Health Service had on foods and beverages sold at the canteen. The mean influence of each group, as reported by principals and canteen managers, was calculated with 95% confidence intervals. Estimates were considered statistically different if the confidence intervals did not overlap.
From 340 (82%) principals who completed the survey, 276 indicated their schools had a canteen (67%); 221 (80%) of canteen managers participated. Principals and Canteen managers rated canteen managers as most influential, followed by principals and parents. Beyond this, the rankings of canteen mangers and principals differed.
The study is the first to examine how much influence different social groups have on what is sold in schools canteens. The findings suggest that to improve the implementation of healthy canteens, interventions should focus on canteen managers but not discount the influence of principals of the school and parents.