Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health Promotion


Burke, Shauna


This study explored: (1) the overall frequency of food/beverage provision to children from non-parental sources; (2) frequency based on location/setting, source, type of food/beverage, and special event/occasion; (3) parental attitudes and awareness related to this provision; and (4) parent perceptions of children’s eating patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents (n =30) and children (n = 44) completed an online survey. Most participants reported that children were provided with foods/beverages from non-parental sources an average of 1-3 times per week. Children reported that provision was most likely to: (a) occur in other people’s homes, during extracurricular activities, and at restaurants; (b) from peers, parents’ friends, and relatives; (c) consist of fruits/vegetables, processed snacks, and sugary foods; and (d) take place at parties, sleepovers, and on vacations. Parents were mostly aware of, and exhibited mixed feelings about, these provisions. Parents also reported several changes in their children’s eating behaviours during the pandemic.

Summary for Lay Audience

Unhealthy foods and beverages that are prepared outside the home (e.g., fast food, restaurant foods, takeout, etc.) have been studied in relation to children’s nutrition and health. However, most studies in this area have examined family meals away from home, rather than examining the foods/beverages given to children from people other than their parents (and possibly outside of parental supervision). This study was conducted to explore: (1) how often children receive foods/beverages from people other than their parents (“non-parental sources”); (2) how often children receive these foods/beverages in specific locations, from different people, by type of food/beverage, and at special events or occasions; (3) how parents feel about, and how aware they are, of the foods/beverages given to their children; and (4) how children’s eating habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 74 participants (30 parents and 44 children) filled out an online survey with questions about each of the topics listed above. Parents and children reported that children received foods/beverages from non-parental sources about 1-3 times per week, on average. Our results also showed that children most commonly reported receiving these foods/beverages: (a) from their friends, their parents’ friends, and family members (e.g., grandparents); (b) at social events, during extracurricular activities (e.g., sports), and at restaurants; (c) in the form of fruits and vegetables, processed snacks, and sugary foods; and (d) at sleepovers, parties, and on vacations. Parents reported knowing about most of these foods/beverages, and they felt this awareness was important. Some parents mentioned that if their children’s diets were balanced and mostly healthy, it was acceptable for them to receive unhealthy foods from others sometimes. Parents had mixed feelings about the healthfulness of the foods and beverages given to their children by other adults, and also noted that foods and beverages provided from peers seemed to be primarily unhealthy. With regard to their children’s eating behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents reported that in some ways, their children’s diets were more healthy (e.g., more family meals and cooking at home), and in other ways, were less healthy (e.g., eating more baked goods and snacking more).