School staff identified barriers, facilitators, and perceptions of implementing a school nutrition policy in a First Nation community school

  • Author / Creator
    Murray, Kris
  • School health policies establish nutrition standards for schools and provide guidelines for the operation of a health-focused school environment. Little research has been conducted to understand implementation of school nutrition policies, and even fewer studies have assessed policy implementation in Aboriginal schools. Historical, cultural, and societal differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal schools may play an important role in the adoption and implementation of health and wellness policies and practices in First Nation communities. The present thesis utilized a community-based participatory research approach to generate a school staff-focused perspective of school nutrition policy implementation in a First Nation community school in Alberta. The research was an evidence-based process evaluation that aimed to understand policy implementation strategies by investigating staff perceived facilitators and barriers of policy implementation, as well as the relationship between staff eating habits and policy implementation. A concurrent triangulation mixed methods approach utilized results of a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews to understand school staff perceptions. Themes derived from the qualitative interviews were woven and integrated with the statistical frequencies derived from a quantitative survey; subsequently a comprehensive set of findings was presented to the community school research committee for review and interpretation. Significant enabling factors for policy implementation were found to be the school environment, administrative and personnel support for the school nutrition policy, and preceding foundational health programming. An innovative facilitator of policy implementation was the identification of the school as a role model for First Nation community members, for example in leading health initiatives, providing a place for nutritious food and physical activity opportunities, and as a health resource for all community members. The health behaviours of school staff played a role in policy adoption. Staff members who self-rated their diets as above average were more likely to agree with policy tenets and to perceive fewer barriers to school nutrition policy implementation. Barriers to school nutrition policy implementation such as inconsistent policy implementation by staff and parents’ lack of awareness of policy can be respectively addressed by increased staff nutrition education opportunities and improved communication avenues with families of students. An unanticipated barrier was a perceived discordance between the foods served at First Nation cultural events such as bannock or wild game and federally derived policy nutrition standards such as those of Canada’s Food Guide that emphasize a low-fat diet. Staff members spoke to the perceived conflict between public health initiatives to promote appreciation for Aboriginal traditional foods with public health messaging that also encouraged Canadians to reduce saturated fat intake, which would be present in traditional foods such as wild game. In conclusion, staff’s personal healthy practices, perceptions of the school nutrition policy and support for the policy were significant influencing factors for the adoption and implementation of school nutrition policy, and therefore are also important factors for student, family, and community health. The conclusions presented encourage consideration of First Nation wellness perspectives in policy development, and inclusion of traditional foods and cultural activities as part of a First Nation school nutrition policy.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.