Moving towards a healthier assortment in secondary and vocational school food environments: Perspectives of Dutch students and school food policy professionals
Kleef, Ellen van; Meeuwsen, Tanja ; Rigterink, Jetteke ; Trijp, Hans Van - \ 2019
British Food Journal 121 (2019)9. - ISSN 0007-070X - p. 2052 - 2066.
Adolescents - Consumer Attitudes - Government policy - Healthy food environment - Intervention acceptability - School canteen
Purpose: In many countries, schools move toward healthier canteen assortments by limiting the supply of unhealthy foods. The question arises whether this gives any undesirable side effects with students (e.g. compensation in purchases from school to outside retailers, reactance) and how to handle these so that operating school canteens remains financially viable. The purpose of this paper is to identify perspectives toward healthy school food assortments held by vocational education students and professionals within secondary and vocational schools with responsibility for school food policy (e.g. school canteen workers, teachers, school directors) in the Netherlands. Design/methodology/approach: Four focus groups were conducted with students at a vocational school (n=25 in total). A semi-structured interview guide was used to conduct discussions. The interview guide also included three school canteen scenario’s (A: 100 percent healthy food, B: 50 percent healthy/50 percent unhealthy foods and C: 100 percent unhealthy food) and a set of nine intervention strategies. A brief survey included questions on the same three scenario’s and nine intervention strategies. A web-based survey was conducted among 68 professionals responsible for school food policy and included their evaluation of the same canteen scenarios and interventions. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and content analysis. Content analysis was done on the qualitative data. Findings: School food professionals were highly supportive of Scenario A (100 percent healthy food), as this formed a better fit with their policies and was believed to stronger encourage healthy eating. They did worry about financial feasibility given lower affordability and student reluctance to accept the assortment. Students were less in favor of Scenario A. Students discussed getting value for money and remaining freedom to make unhealthy choices. The authors discuss implications for policy makers who aim to implement measures to improve young people’s eating habits. Originality/value: This study contributes to the literature on creating healthier school food environments. This study uniquely examines a healthier school canteen from a viability perspective, including the views of students as primary customers. Given the need to progressively increase the number of foods complying to dietary guidelines in canteen assortments, this study provides insights into how and why assortment changes best can be implemented.