Article Text

Download PDFPDF
OP144 A qualitative study exploring the views of year 8 pupils’ on their secondary school food and drink environment
  1. Alice Roberts1,2,
  2. Elizabeth Evans3,
  3. Frances Hillier-Brown1,2,
  4. Suzanne Spence1,2
  1. 1Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Human Nutrition and Exercise Research Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Durham University, Durham, UK


Background Adolescents consume too much sugar and not enough fruit and vegetables. The school food and drink environment offers an opportunity to improve adolescents’ food choices, as the school day can contribute up to 30% of adolescents’ dietary intake. Previous research has identified this environment to be disorganised and overcrowded, and adolescents tend to choose less healthy, quick, and easy options. Previous interventions within this environment lack adolescent involvement but this is key to ensuring interventions are relevant and engage adolescents. The aim is to explore adolescents’ views of their school food and drink environment and how this influences their food and drink choices. Findings will be used to inform a co-designed intervention.

Methods Three secondary schools in the Northeast of England were randomly recruited based on level of deprivation and free school meal eligibility, with one school from high, medium, and low deprivation areas. The key school contact selected one class of Year 8 pupils (aged 12 – 13 years old) and the researcher gave a presentation. All adolescents’ received an opt-in consent form for parents/guardians, and pupils to complete. Opt-in assent was also collected from adolescents before the start of the workshop. The workshop involved four activities to explore what adolescents’ liked and disliked about their school canteen and the most important factors related to choosing their school food. The workshop included group discussions, photos of the school canteen, post-it notes, and two researchers’ observations and note-taking. A live scribe produced an infographic based on the adolescents’ discussion. Preliminary data were thematically analysed.

Ethical approval was granted by Newcastle University Ethics Committee, reference number: 2402/24274/2021.

Results Preliminary analysis from one workshop found adolescents liked eating together, the food available, and having a hygienic canteen. Adolescents’ particularly liked to have a ‘hot food’ option. Pupils disliked the unhygienic utensils, small portions, and limited food variety. Adolescents’ wanted food items to be labelled to make informed decisions about their food choices. Adolescents’ food choice was determined by food availability and preference.

Conclusion Preliminary findings highlighted the importance of hygiene, labelling, and availability of hot food. Food availability and food preference are key to adolescents’ food choices. Further exploration of this environment with adolescents in other schools will allow for differences and similarities across schools to be identified. This will be used to co-design an intervention with adolescents to produce an appropriate intervention.

  • School food environment
  • food choice
  • and secondary school

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.