Christina Gillies: Indigenous parent and students’ perceptions of a school nutrition policy
A school nutrition policy (SNP) is one promising strategy to improve the diets of Indigenous children in Canada. However, there is little knowledge concerning successful SNP implementation in schools for Indigenous children. The purpose of this study was to explore parent and students’ perceived facilitators and barriers to a SNP.
The research used a community based participatory research approach and mixed methods design. Students in grades 4-12 (n=94) and parents (n=83) completed a survey to capture their perceptions of the SNP. Survey data informed semi-structured interviews with parents (n=10) and students (n=20) to further understand the barriers and facilitators of SNP implementation.
Most parents (95%) and students (87%) supported the SNP. However, over half (55%) of students reported that their eating habits at school were average or unhealthy. In interviews, students explained that their diets could be improved by consuming more fruit and vegetables. Surveys and interviews also found that student engagement with their parents and teachers about nutrition was low, and that parents face barriers related to the cost and accessibility of healthy foods.
To support children’s healthy eating at school, SNPs should provide clear guidelines about permissible foods and include specific strategies to promote parent and teacher engagement with students about nutrition. SNPs must also consider local context and environmental barriers to healthy eating to ensure sustainability. The involvement of Indigenous parents and children in the evaluation of SNPs is recommended.