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In 2014, a Nutrition Report Card (NRC) was developed as a sustainable, low-cost framework to assess the healthfulness of children’s food environments and highlight action to support healthy eating. We summarise our experiences in producing, disseminating, evaluating and refining an annual NRC in a Canadian province from 2015 to 2019.
To produce the NRC, children’s food environment indicator data are collected, analyzed and compiled for consensus grading by an Expert Working Group of researchers and practitioners. Knowledge translation activities are tailored annually to the needs of target audiences: researchers, practitioners, policymakers and the public. Evaluation of reach is conducted through diverse strategies, including tracking media coverage and website traffic. Assessment of impact on diets and health outcomes is planned.
The grading process has facilitated refining the NRC to enhance its relevance and utility as a tool for its target audiences. Its public release consistently captures media interest and policymakers’ attention. The importance of partnerships in revealing data sources and in strategising to enhance policy approaches to improve food environments is apparent. The NRC has benchmarked progress and stimulated dialogue regarding healthy food environments for children.
The NRC may help to foster a supportive climate for improving the quality of children’s food environments. As an engaging and accessible document, the NRC represents a key mechanism for collating data related to children’s food environments and ensuring it reaches the audiences best positioned to use it. Efforts are underway to expand the NRC across Canada.
To assess and compare the favourability of healthy public policy options to promote healthy eating from the perspective of members of the general public and policy influencers in two Canadian provinces.
The Chronic Disease Prevention Survey, administered in 2016, required participants to rank their level of support for different evidence-based policy options to promote healthy eating at the population level. Pearson’s χ2 significance testing was used to compare support between groups for each policy option and results were interpreted using the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ intervention ladder framework.
Alberta and Québec, Canada.
Members of the general public (n 2400) and policy influencers (n 302) in Alberta and Québec.
General public and policy influencer survey respondents were more supportive of healthy eating policies if they were less intrusive on individual autonomy. However, in comparing levels of support between groups, we found policy influencers indicated significantly stronger support overall for healthy eating policy options. We also found that policy influencers in Québec tended to show more support for more restrictive policy options than their counterparts from Alberta.
These results suggest that additional knowledge brokering may be required to increase support for more intrusive yet impactful evidence-based policy interventions; and that the overall lower levels of support among members of the public may impede policy influencers from taking action on policies to promote healthy eating.
The present study aimed to: (i) examine associations between food store patronage and diet and weight-related outcomes; and (ii) explore consumer motivations for visiting different types of food store.
A stratified probability sample of residents completed household and individual-level surveys in 2009/2010 on food purchasing patterns and motivations, dietary intake, waist circumference (WC), weight and height. Diet quality was calculated using the Healthy Eating Index for Canada from a subset of participants (n 1362). Generalized estimating equations were created in 2015 to examine how frequency of patronizing different types of food store was associated with diet quality, intake of fruits and vegetable, mean intake of energy (kcal) sodium and saturated fat, WC and BMI.
Three mid-sized urban municipalities in Ontario, Canada.
A representative sample of residents (n 4574).
Participants who shopped frequently at food co-ops had significantly better diet quality (β=5·3; 99 % CI 0·3, 10·2) than those who did not. BMI and WC were significantly lower among those who frequently shopped at specialty shops (BMI, β=−2·1; 99 % CI −3·0, −1·1; WC, β=−4·8; 99 % CI −7·0, −2·5) and farmers’ markets (BMI, β=−1·4; 99 % CI −2·3, −0·5; WC, β=−3·8; 99 % CI −6·0, −1·6) compared with those who did not. Relative importance of reasons for food outlet selection differed by large (price, food quality) v. small (proximity, convenient hours) shopping trip and by outlet type.
Findings contribute to our understanding of food store selection and have implications for potentially relevant retail food intervention settings.
Little is known about how public entities can partner with industry to achieve public health goals. We investigated industry's perspective of factors that influenced their adoption and implementation of voluntary, government-issued nutrition guidelines (Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth, ANGCY) in recreational facilities.
In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted. Data were analysed using directed content analysis.
Food services in recreational facilities.
Seven managers from industry participated; five from companies that had adopted and implemented the ANGCY (adopters) in recreational facilities and two from companies that had not (non-adopters).
Industry views nutrition guidelines through the lens of profitability. Non-adopters were unwilling to implement the ANGCY for fear of sacrificing short-term profitability, whereas adopters adhered to them in an attempt to position themselves for long-term profitability. Adopters faced barriers including few resources, no training, complex guidelines, low availability of and demand for ANGCY-compliant products, competitive pressures and substantial declines in revenue. Managers believed widespread voluntary adoption of the ANGCY was unlikely without government incentives and/or a mandate, as the environmental context for voluntary action was poor. All managers supported government-mandated implementation of the ANGCY to level the playing field upon which companies compete.
Public–private partnerships in recreational facilities can embrace public health goals in the short term, provided industry perceives potential for long-term financial gain. Widespread uptake of voluntary nutrition guidelines in this setting is unlikely, however, as market mechanisms do not encourage industry to sell and promote healthier options. Government legislation may therefore be warranted.
The increasing prevalence of obesity among youth has elicited calls for schools to become more active in promoting healthy weight. The present study examined associations between various aspects of school food environments (specifically the availability of snack- and beverage-vending machines and the presence of snack and beverage logos) and students’ weight status, as well as potential influences of indices of diet and food behaviours.
A cross-sectional, self-administered web-based survey. A series of multinomial logistic regressions with generalized estimating equations (GEE) were constructed to examine associations between school environment variables (i.e. the reported presence of beverage- and snack-vending machines and logos) and self-reported weight- and diet-related behaviours.
Secondary schools in Alberta, Canada.
A total of 4936 students from grades 7 to 10.
The presence of beverage-vending machines in schools was associated with the weight status of students. The presence of snack-vending machines and logos was associated with students’ frequency of consuming vended goods. The presence of snack-vending machines and logos was associated with the frequency of salty snack consumption.
The reported presence of snack- and beverage-vending machines and logos in schools is related to some indices of weight status, diet and meal behaviours but not to others. The present study supported the general hypothesis that the presence of vending machines in schools may affect students’ weight through increased consumption of vended goods, but notes that the frequency of ‘junk’ food consumption does not seem to be related to the presence of vending machines, perhaps reflecting the ubiquity of these foods in the daily lives of students.
To explore the relationship among children’s diet quality, weight status and food environment in subarctic Canada.
In the cross-sectional study, children’s BMI was calculated, diet quality was assessed using three 24 h dietary recalls and children were asked about their home food environment and source of meals.
Two Aboriginal Cree communities in northern Québec.
Two hundred and one children in grades 4–6.
The majority (64·2 %) of children were overweight (29·9 %) or obese (34·3 %). Weight status was not associated with reported restaurant meal frequency or the home food environment. The 18 % of children who consumed three or more restaurant meals in the three days of recall consumed, on average, 2004 kJ (479 kcal) more energy daily than children consuming no restaurant meals and had higher intakes of fat, saturated fat, Ca and soda. Most foods contributing to energy and dietary fat were energy-dense market foods of low nutritional value such as sweetened beverages and snack foods. Only 68 % of children reported often having fruits and vegetables in the home and 98·5 % of children consumed less than 5 fruits and vegetables daily. Many children (42·8 %) were at risk of Zn inadequacy. Only 19 % of children consumed 2 or more servings of milk daily, and the mean intakes of Ca and vitamin D were below the recommended adequate intake. Traditional game meat was consumed infrequently, but contributed significantly to Fe and Zn intake.
Childhood obesity in subarctic communities prevailed in a food environment typified by high-energy-density commercial foods of low nutritional value.
Canada’s Aboriginal population is vulnerable to food insecurity and increasingly lives off-reserve. The Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2 Nutrition, was used to compare the prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of food insecurity between non-Aboriginal and off-reserve Aboriginal households.
Food insecurity status was based on Health Canada’s revised interpretation of responses to the US Household Food Security Survey Module. Logistic regression was used to assess if Aboriginal households were at higher risk for food insecurity than non-Aboriginal households, adjusting for household sociodemographic factors.
Households (n 35,107), 1528 Aboriginal and 33 579 non-Aboriginal.
Thirty-three per cent of Aboriginal households were food insecure as compared with 9 % of non-Aboriginal households (univariate OR 5·2, 95 % CI 4·2, 6·3). Whereas 14 % of Aboriginal households had severe food insecurity, 3 % of non-Aboriginal households did. The prevalence of sociodemographic risk factors for household food insecurity was higher for Aboriginal households. Aboriginal households were more likely to have three or more children (14 % v. 5 %), be lone-parent households (2 1 % v. 5 %), not have home ownership (52 % v. 31 %), have educational attainment of secondary school or less (43 % v. 26 %), have income from sources other than wages or salaries (38 % v. 29 %), and be in the lowest income adequacy category (33 % v. 12 %). Adjusted for these sociodemographic factors, Aboriginal households retained a higher risk for food insecurity than non-Aboriginal households (OR 2·6, 95 % CI 2·1, 3·2).
Off-reserve Aboriginal households in Canada merit special attention for income security and poverty alleviation initiatives.
To assess the overall diet quality of a sample of adolescents living in Alberta, Canada, and evaluate whether diet quality, nutrient intakes, meal behaviours (i.e. meal skipping and consuming meals away from home) and physical activity are related.
A cross-sectional study design. Students completed the self-administered Web-Survey of Physical Activity and Nutrition (Web-SPAN). Students were classified as having poor, average or superior diet quality based on Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating (CFGHE).
One hundred and thirty-six schools (37 %) within forty-four public and private school boards (75 %) in Alberta, Canada.
Grade 7 to 10 Alberta students (n 4936) participated in the school-based research.
On average, students met macronutrient requirements; however, micronutrient and fibre intakes were suboptimal. Median CFGHE food group intakes were below recommendations. Those with poor diet quality (42 %) had lower intakes of protein, fibre and low-calorie beverages; higher intakes of carbohydrates, fat and Other Foods (e.g. foods containing mostly sugar, high-salt/fat foods, high-calorie beverages, low-calorie beverages and high-sugar/fat foods); a lower frequency of consuming breakfast and a higher frequency of consuming meals away from home; and a lower level of physical activity when compared with students with either average or superior diet quality.
Alberta adolescents were not meeting minimum CFGHE recommendations, and thus had suboptimal intakes and poor diet quality. Suboptimal nutritional intakes, meal behaviours and physical inactivity were all related to poor diet quality and reflect the need to target these health behaviours in order to improve diet quality and overall health and wellness.
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