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The school food environment and elementary students’ food and nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan



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Background: Globally, close to three-quarters of children get lunch at school. In Canada, regional or provincial systems exist to provide some school snack and meal programs, although there is little consistency among them. Research indicates that home-packed foods are likely to be lower in nutritional value than school-provided meals. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to assess the school food environment and the frequency of consumption of different food and drinks by children during school hours, as well as the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of school children on food and nutrition. Methods: Four elementary schools were selected for this study by the Saskatoon Public School Division from among those that currently have small lunch programs. A self-administered online questionnaire was used to collect data during class time with students in grades 4-6, with teachers and research personnel on hand to address any questions. A total of 185 elementary school children participated in the survey. In addition, 94 staff surveys were collected to supplement the children’s information to examine aspects of the food environment available in the schools. Results: Among the students, 54.5% declared their gender as male and 74.7% reported being born in Canada. Approximately 46.7% and 46.2% of students reported school-day daily consumption of fruits and vegetables and dairy products/dairy alternatives, respectively. Thirty-four percent of respondents reported daily school hours consumption of sweets and sweetened beverages, and 31% consumed meat and meat alternatives. Results show that 38.2% of the student participants reported food insecurity. Children who self-reported as Asian, Arab, and African consumed 7.16 times more often meat and meat alternatives than First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children (CI: 1.33-38.60). Students who reported being born outside Canada consumed snack foods and desserts more frequently than those born in Canada (OR: 2.81, CI:1.05-7.55). Male students were significantly less likely to report school hours sugar and sweetened beverages consumption compared to females (OR: 0.42, CI: 0.18-0.98), and food-secure children consumed unhealthy beverages less frequently compared to food-insecure children (OR: 0.40, CI: 0.17-0.94). From the staff surveys, results showed that “healthy food support” was the most developed food environment domain in the two schools, while composting was the least developed domain. Conclusion: Implementation of a universal, curriculum-integrated, healthy school lunch program may enhance the school food environment and the school hours diet quality of children. In addition, it may improve elementary students’ food and nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices.



School-food, Elementary students, Saskatoon



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community and Population Health Science


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