Food for thought: analysing the internal and external school food environment
Nic Gabhainn, Saoirse
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Callaghan, Mary; Molcho, Michal; Nic Gabhainn, Saoirse; Kelly, Colette (2015). Food for thought: analysing the internal and external school food environment. Health Education 115 (2), 152-170
Purpose - Availability and access to food is a determinant of obesity. The purpose of this paper is to examine food availability within and outside of post-primary schools in Ireland. Design/methodology/approach - Data on the internal school food environment were collected from 63 post-primary schools using questionnaires. The external school food environment for these 63 schools was assessed by mapping food businesses within 1 km of schools, using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Food businesses were categorised based on type of food sold. Findings - A total of 68.3 per cent of schools had a canteen, 52.5 per cent had a small food shop and 37.1 per cent had a vending machine. A total of 32.7 per cent of schools reported selling chips (French fries) in their canteen while 44.2 per cent of schools reported selling energy-dense nutrient-poor foods in their school shop. Of the schools surveyed, there was an average of 3.89 coffee shops and sandwich bars, 3.65 full service restaurants, 2.60 Asian and other &quot;ethnic&quot; restaurants, 4.03 fast food restaurants, 1.95 supermarkets, 6.71 local shops and 0.73 fruit and vegetable retailers within a 1 km radius of the post-primary schools. Findings are presented by geography (urban/rural), disadvantage (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in School (DEIS)/non DEIS), gender (girls/boys/mixed) and food policy in place at the school (yes/no). Practical implications - These data will facilitate schools working on the framework for Health Promoting Schools in Ireland. Social implications - This work can contribute to current discussions on restricting accessibility to certain foods and food premises for school children. Originality/value - The study explores the internal and external school food environment. GIS have been used to link the external food environment to specific schools thus allowing a comprehensive analysis of the schools' food environment. To the authors knowledge, this is the first time that both environments are explored simultaneously.