Purpose: We explored parent and student perceptions of barriers and facilitating factors influencing the implementation of school nutrition policies (SNPs). Specifically, we focused on the changes made to the school food environment and the acceptance of those changes.
Methods: This paper is a report on the first phase of the qualitative component of a larger five-year evaluation of nutrition policies in Prince Edward Island elementary schools (grades 1 to 6) and consolidated schools (grades 1 to 8). Focus groups were conducted with 41 students from four schools, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 parents. Interviews were transcribed and coded; analysis was informed by interpretive description.
Results: Four themes were identified as barriers to effective implementation: inadequate communication with parents and students about the policy and menu changes, limited school resources and volunteers, role/responsibility conflict concerning the feeding of children, and student food preferences. The main facilitating factor was parental and student support for healthy eating at school.
Conclusions: Study results add to the limited body of knowledge about stakeholder perceptions during early implementation of Canadian SNPs. Dietitians can foster communication, engagement, and education of stakeholders, which will increase the likelihood that students and their families will accept SNPs.