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Government policy guidance in Victoria, Australia, encourages schools to provide affordable, healthy foods in canteens. This study analysed the healthiness and price of items available in canteens in Victorian primary schools and associations with school characteristics.
Dietitians classified menu items (main, snack and beverage) using the red, amber and green traffic light system defined in the Victorian government’s School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy. This system also included a black category for confectionary and high sugar content soft drinks which should not be supplied. Descriptive statistics and regressions were used to analyse differences in the healthiness and price of main meals, snacks and beverages offered, according to school remoteness, sector (government and Catholic/independent) size, and socio-economic position.
State of Victoria, Australia
A convenience sample of canteen menus drawn from three previous obesity prevention studies in forty-eight primary schools between 2016 and 2019.
On average, school canteen menus were 21 % ‘green’ (most healthy – everyday), 53 % ‘amber’ (select carefully), 25 % ‘red’ (occasional) and 2 % ‘black’ (banned) items, demonstrating low adherence with government guidelines. ‘Black’ items were more common in schools in regional population centres. ‘Red’ main meal items were cheaper than ‘green’% (mean difference –$0·48 (95 % CI –0·85, –0·10)) and ‘amber’ –$0·91 (–1·27, –0·57)) main meal items. In about 50 % of schools, the mean price of ‘red’ main meal, beverages and snack items were cheaper than ‘green’ items, or no ‘green’ alternative items were offered.
In this sample of Victorian canteen menus, there was no evidence of associations of healthiness and pricing by school characteristics except for regional centres having the highest proportion of ‘black’ (banned) items compared with all other remoteness categories examined. There was low adherence with state canteen menu guidelines. Many schools offered a high proportion of ‘red’ food options and ‘black’ (banned) options, particularly in regional centres. Unhealthier options were cheaper than healthy options. More needs to be done to bring Victorian primary school canteen menus in line with guidelines.
To determine whether primary school children’s weight status and dietary behaviours vary by remoteness as defined by the Australian Modified Monash Model (MMM).
A cross-sectional study design was used to conduct secondary analysis of baseline data from primary school students participating in a community-based childhood obesity trial. Logistic mixed models estimated associations between remoteness, measured weight status and self-reported dietary intake.
Twelve regional and rural Local Government Areas in North-East Victoria, Australia.
Data were collected from 2456 grade 4 (approximately 9–10 years) and grade 6 (approximately 11–12 years) students.
The final sample included students living in regional centres (17·4 %), large rural towns (25·6 %), medium rural towns (15·1 %) and small rural towns (41·9 %). Weight status did not vary by remoteness. Compared to children in regional centres, those in small rural towns were more likely to meet fruit consumption guidelines (OR: 1·75, 95 % CI (1·24, 2·47)) and had higher odds of consuming fewer takeaway meals (OR: 1·37, 95 % CI (1·08, 1·74)) and unhealthy snacks (OR = 1·58, 95 % CI (1·15, 2·16)).
Living further from regional centres was associated with some healthier self-reported dietary behaviours. This study improves understanding of how dietary behaviours may differ across remoteness levels and highlights that public health initiatives may need to take into account heterogeneity across communities.
‘Food deserts’ and ‘food swamps’ are food retail environment typologies associated with unhealthy diet and obesity. The current study aimed to identify more complex food retail environment typologies and examine temporal trends.
Measures of food retail environment accessibility and relative healthy food availability were defined for small areas (SA2s) of Melbourne, Australia, from a census of food outlets operating in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016. SA2s were classified into typologies using a two-stage approach: (1) SA2s were sorted into twenty clusters according to accessibility and availability and (2) clusters were grouped using evidence-based thresholds.
The current study was set in Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria, Australia.
Food retail environments in 301 small areas (Statistical Area 2) located in Melbourne in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Six typologies were identified based on access (low, moderate and high) and healthy food availability including one where zero food outlets were present. Over the study period, SA2s experienced an overall increase in accessibility and healthiness. Distribution of typologies varied by geographic location and area-level socio-economic position.
Multiple typologies with contrasting access and healthiness measures exist within Melbourne and these continue to change over time, and the majority of SA2s were dominated by the presence of unhealthy relative to healthy outlets, with SA2s experiencing growth and disadvantage having the lowest access and to a greater proportion of unhealthy outlets.
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