Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Supervisor

Dr. Jason Gilliland

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Danielle Battram

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

School food programs can improve children’s health and well-being, while also creating economic opportunities for local food systems. Program evaluations of such interventions have always been done, but from the perspectives of their effectiveness. Yet, few have thoroughly examined the process or implementation practices of these interventions. The aim of this dissertation was to evaluate the implementation of the Centrally Procured School Food Program (CPSFP), a procurement and delivery-based school food program in Southwestern Ontario, that aims to improve elementary school-aged children’s intake of fruit and vegetables (FVs). Canada remains one of the few industrialized nations without a national school food program, and therefore evaluating the implementation processes of this pilot program will identify the conditions and resources needed to lay the foundation for a universal school food program. Experiences of food providers, and Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP) personnel who were involved in planning, coordination, and oversight of the program, as well as those involved in the production, procurement, and distribution of foods to schools were gathered using semi-structured interviews. An inductive content analysis of the interview transcripts indicates that the majority of the participants expressed positive perceptions of the CPSFP. Successes and challenges to program implementation included children’s excitement and the alleviation of concerns with volunteer-led purchasing and delivery, while concurrently revealing challenges with volume and type of food, as well as infrastructure and funding limitations. Suggestions for improvement included focused opportunities to enhance the implementation of the CPSFP, while also identifying a need for continued and enhanced investment of resources. Next, using a mixed-methods study design, perspectives of personnel and volunteers involved in the implementation of the program at the school-level were examined. Findings show that participants were highly satisfied with the program and viewed the program as part of a successful effort to increase children’s intake of healthy foods, especially FVs. Successes included appreciation for the CPSFP and the participation of the school community. Challenges included concerns with the volume and types of foods provided, issues with classroom food delivery and distribution, and communication issues. Suggestions for improvement included building capacities and enhancing children’s engagement in the program. Evidence indicates that CPSFP is likely to be effective and sustainable but only with proper implementation. This research has implications for the CPSFP and other school-based efforts aimed at promoting FVs intake among children while also creating economic opportunities for local, sustainable agriculture.

Summary for Lay Audience

School food programs have the potential to promote children’s health and well-being, while also having a positive impact on the local food system. Numerous factors govern the implementation of food programs, which will ultimately have an impact on the foods that children consume at school. This research evaluates the implementation of the Centrally Procured School Food Program (CPSFP) in Southwestern Ontario, from the perspectives of personnel and/or volunteers, and food providers who were involved in the implementation and coordination of the program both in and outside of school-based settings. The majority of participants perceived the program to be a fruitful emerging economic opportunity in Canada, in addition to improving school-aged children’s health and well being. Also, findings identified a set of well-conceived and practical recommendations for future improvements including, but not limited to: (1) enhancing the engagement of all stakeholders, including children; (2) maintaining program administration; (3) ensuring sustained and flexible funding; (4) stimulating adequate communication; and (5) devising ongoing support to motivate schools who want to implement the program but feel they have a lack of capacity. Overall, school food programs have the potential to support the health and learning of our children, transform our food systems, and foster the use of locally-produced food for strong economies. The lessons learned and suggestions presented provide guidance to future implementation of similar school food programming.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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