Food-related Beliefs, Attitudes, Knowledge, Eating Patterns and Intended Classroom Food Practices of BEd Students

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MacEwen, Melissa
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Children and youth are at an impressionable age, and their eating habits and nutritional health are influenced by a variety of people in their immediate environment. Children and youth learn by example and the eating habits they acquire early in life are often carried into adulthood. Teachers are key role models for children and youth, and through daily routines they are given the opportunity to model and communicate valuable nutrition information. It is important to focus on Education students as they will become role models for children and youth. It is crucial to raise awareness of how their own healthful habits can have long term benefits on the health of children and youth. This research project explores the association between the food related beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, eating patterns and intended classroom food practices of BEd students. Each of these factors can potentially affect the development of heartily behaviors of children and youth. Teachers have the ability to play an important role to better the students’ day-to-day lifestyle at school. However, since health courses for education students are elective; many future teachers must rely on their previous knowledge and values for this important issue, whatever their perception may be. One hundred and three students (79% response rate) enrolled in both the elementary and secondary BEd program at Mount Saint Vincent University completed a self-administered questionnaire adapted from the TEENS Teaching Staff Survey. Univariate statistics were used to describe the variables involved, while mixed model analysis of variance was used to examine tlie association between the variables. Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) and Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model provided a theoretical framework for understanding the influence of social environmental factors on the development of health behavior. Study findings show that although 93% BEd students confirmed the importance of a healthy school food environment, two-thirds intended to use unhealthy classroom food practices (candy in particular), 65% reported high-fat or very high fat intakes and most (72%) respondents had mid-to-low nutrition knowledge levels. Respondents who demonstrated ‘less support for a healthy school environment’ were more likely to promote unhealthy classroom food practices. As well respondents who had high fat intakes and low perceived health were approximately 3 times as likely to use the cafeteria, canteen or vending machines than those with low fat intakes and high perceived health. Overall, results suggest that BEd students in this study recognize the importance of a healthy environment; however, they report knowledge, attitudes and behaviors which may act as barriers to their having a positive impact on student’s eating habits in their future role as teachers. It is important that school and health professionals continue to campaign for the development and implementation of policies and programs that support teachers in creating a healthy school environment. Research suggests that attention to the health related needs of teachers is required if significant and sustainable changes in the comprehensive school food environment are to be achieved. It is also important that teachers succeed as positive role models and contribute to normative practices that support the development of healthy eating behaviors. Study findings reinforce the need to have policies and programs that support teachers in establishing healthy classroom practices and compulsory nutrition education training for BEd students.
Food related beliefs, eating patterns, classroom food practises.