Wendy Burton is a Research Associate at the University of York Health Sciences Department. Her research focuses on public health implementation with a focus on optimising the implementation of childhood obesity prevention interventions.
Schools promote healthy nutrition and reduce health inequalities through the implementation of whole school approaches to food (e.g., food culture, environment, and education). However, uptake of such approaches is often low. As part of the CONNECTS-Food project, an online resource was developed with key stakeholders to set out key principles of a whole school approach to food, and address barriers to implementation within the school food system. This paper explores the acceptability of this resource by schools.
A qualitative interview study was undertaken with 15 stakeholders (senior leaders, teachers, and kitchen staff) across six UK primary schools. Participants were asked to review the CONNECTS-Food resource before interviews, providing feedback on its acceptability. A theoretical framework of acceptability was used to inform the topic guide and was used as a deductive coding framework to analyse the data using thematic analysis.
Participants found the CONNECTS-Food resource visually appealing and easy to navigate, and felt it contained useful resources to support implementation of a whole school approach to food. Following review, the majority expressed an intention to implement small changes within their school in line with key principles, using the resource for guidance. However, all those interviewed described implementation barriers to a whole school approach to food that could deter engagement with the resource, including competing priorities, perceived lack of time, and lack of mandatory requirements for implementation. Some interviews suggested the whole school approach to food concept is misunderstood, with limited recognition.
CONNECTS-Food could be used as a tool to support implementation of a whole school approach to food. Wider changes within school food systems are needed to encourage schools to adopt the resource. Further work should focus on supporting schools in understanding what a whole school approach to food means.