Background/Aims: In the past 10-years school canteens have received bad publicity due to their continued sale of unhealthy foods. Concurrently, many school canteens have moved to improve the type and quality of food available to students. This study, using surveys, investigated stakeholder perceptions and use of school canteens in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Methods: Following ethical approval, surveys were conducted in ACT Catholic and Independent schools during February–April 2015. School principals were invited to complete a survey on school canteen demographics; and parent’s a survey on their perceptions of the school canteen and their child’s use of the canteen.
Results: In total, 10 school principals and 86 parents participated in the study. Schools were committed to healthy eating, with menus reviewed ‘regularly’. Ninety-four percent of parents reported their children purchased food from the school canteen, with lunch and snacks purchased on a monthly and fortnightly basis. Seventy-one percent of parents provided children with $1-$5 to spend at the canteen, with foods classified under the ‘red’ category such as meat-pies, bacon and egg rolls and full-fat flavoured milks (red-amber) commonly purchased. Parents (56%, total n=48) believed that it was their responsibility, not the schools, to encourage healthy eating. However, 53% (total n=47) of parents stated they were not fully aware of canteen practices or the cost of food.
Conclusions: While schools are committed to providing healthy foods, more explicit promotion of school canteen practices and encouragement of healthy eating is required.
Funding Source(s): Faculty of Health, University of Canberra.