Effect of changes to the school food environment on eating behaviours and/or body weight in children: a systematic review

Obes Rev. 2014 Dec;15(12):968-82. doi: 10.1111/obr.12224. Epub 2014 Sep 29.


Previous school obesity-prevention reviews have included multi-component interventions. Here, we aimed to review the evidence for the effect of isolated food environment interventions on both eating behaviours (including food purchasing) and/or body weight. Five electronic databases were searched (last updated 30 November 2013). Of the 1,002 unique papers identified, 55 reported on school food environment changes, based on a review of titles and abstracts. Thirty-seven further papers were excluded, for not meeting the inclusion criteria. The final selection consisted of 18 papers (14 United States, 4 United Kingdom). Two studies had a body mass index (BMI) outcome, 14 assessed purchasing or eating behaviours and two studies assessed both weight and behaviour. Seventeen of 18 papers reported a positive outcome on either BMI (or change in BMI) or the healthfulness of food sold or consumed. Two studies were rated as strong quality and 11 as weak. Only three studies included a control group. A school environment supportive of healthy eating is essential to combat heavy marketing of unhealthy food. Modification of the school food environment (including high-level policy changes at state or national level) can have a positive impact on eating behaviours. A need exists, however, for further high-quality studies.

Keywords: BMI; diet; food environment; school.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Preferences
  • Food Services / trends*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • School Health Services*