Allowing and Using Foods of Low Nutritional Value in Elementary School Classrooms: The Implications of Teachers' Beliefs

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Objective:To investigate elementary teachers' behavior toward allowing and using foods with low nutritional value in the classroom.Design/Setting:A survey guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior was administered in fall, 2012 in 10 schools.Participants:Elementary public school teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 6.Main Outcome Measures:Teachers' behavior and beliefs regarding allowing and using foods with low nutritional value in the classroom and Theory of Planned Behavior determinants.Analysis:Pairwise correlation coefficients and multivariate linear regression to assess relationships between theory determinants and descriptive statistics.Results:All 3 determinants, Attitude Toward the Behavior (t = 4.04; P < .01), Subjective Norms (t = 3.78; P < .01), and Perceived Behavioral Control (t = 5.19; p < .01), were statistically significant predictors of behavior. The majority of teachers (94%) allowed foods of low nutritional value for celebrations at least some of the time, and 75% stated that they had control over what foods they allow.Conclusions and Implications:Discussions among teachers and school health professionals should ensue to improve nutritional content of foods allowed in classrooms. School policies can be developed and evaluated for effectiveness to have a positive impact on childhood obesity and school nutrition environments.

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